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Course Information

Instructor Info:Michele Hardesty
Office Extension x5490
Carol Bengelsdorf
Office Extension x5402
TA Info:Alana Bunstock de Hinojosa
Susanna Rajala
Term: 2014F
Meeting Info: Tuesday Thursday
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102
10:30 AM - 11:50 AM Franklin Patterson Hall (FPH) 102

How do we study a reality as complex and contested as that of Cuba? This course proposes an interdisciplinary approach that critically interrogates the available frameworks (geopolitical, historical, and cultural) for undertaking such a study. First, what images of Cuba-circulating in US popular and official culture-must we recognize and displace even to begin our study? What constructions of race, gender, and sexuality have defined the Cuban nation and Cuban transnationalism? In terms of the geopolitical, how do we locate Cuba as part of the Caribbean (with its history of plantation economies and slavery), as part of Latin America (linked by a shared history of Spanish conquest and the centripetal force of the Cuban Revolution), and as part of the African diaspora? How can Cuba be understood in relation to the U.S., as well as to other socialist or "post-socialist" countries, and to the exilic cultures and ideologies of Miami, "Cuba's second largest city"? In regards to historical periodization, how do different lenses (Spanish colonialism, the Cuban Revolution, the Cold War, the post-1989 period) shape an examination of Cuban history? Proceeding from the 19th century to the present, this course will engage with primary texts, historiography, literature, film, and music to examine Cuba within these multiple frameworks. Students will complete frequent short response essays and a substantial research paper. This course is recommended for 2nd and 3rd year students and will require approximately 8-10 hours of work outside of class per week.

Evaluation Criteria:

In order to give you an evaluation in the course, we ask for the following:

1. Regular attendance, participation, and preparation

2. Participation in a group presentation

3. Completion of four 2-3 page response papers

4. At least four contributions to the weekly online forum

5. Completion of a research paper of 15-20 pages

6. A self-evaluation.


1. Participation, Preparation, and Attendance: Much of our discussion will be fueled by your questions and observations about the readings and viewings. For this course to function successfully, then, it will be crucial for you to keep up with readings, attend screenings, and attend class regularly. While some are more eager than others to participate in class, everyone should make an effort to contribute to the discussions. It is fine to ask basic questions: if you don’t understand something, chances are good that others are feeling the same. Take risks; raise your hand; ask.

More than two absences will be noted unhappily in your evaluation. If you miss more than four class meetings (with exceptions made for truly extraordinary circumstances) you will not receive an evaluation for the course. We suggest you save your absences for illness, religious observance, and family emergencies. Three tardy arrivals (more than 5 minutes late) will count as an absence. If you know you are going to miss a class, get in touch with us as soon as possible. If you have already missed a class, it is your responsibility to find out what you missed.

Please note: You should expect to spent approximately 8-10 hours each week on activities outside of class: readings, screenings, notetaking, and writing.

2. Group presentation :In the first class period, we will divide the class into five groups, and each group will have a week and a half to gather images of Cuba in U.S. popular culture and present those images to the class. Each group will have 10 minutes to present collectively their findings on Thursday, Sept. 16.     

3. Response papers:You will write four 2-3 page papers during the semester in which you reflect closely and critically on an important primary text or film before we discuss it in class. We will post specific prompts for these papers to Moodle the week before they are due. These papers are due on Moodle the night before we discuss the readings in class (by 11pm).

4. Weekly online forum:Every week there will be a forum on Moodle (our course website) where anyone can post thoughts on readings. The forums are intended as free spaces in which you can reflect on readings before we discuss them in class. You may, for instance, set forth your tentative interpretation of a given reading (this is particularly useful when a reading is dense and you wish to discuss and clarify it in class); you may elaborate questions or confusions raised for you by a reading; you may lay out your disagreement(s) with a given reading (be concrete here, rather than emotional or indignant); etc. You will contribute to at least 5 forums during the semester, and at least 2 of these should happen by midterm.

There is also a general Course Forum at the top of our Moodle homepage. This is a good place to post notes about current events related to Cuba, articles that relate to what we are studying or what you are reading, as well as upcoming events in the Five College area related to what we are studying.

5. Research paper: The major assignment of the semester is a 15-20 page research paper. We will suggest topics to give you a sense of the range of inquiry open to you as we proceed during the semester, and we will discuss proposals with each of you individually. You will submit a proposal for a research essay, with an initial proposal and annotated bibliography on November 5th. First drafts of the research paper due Tuesday after Thanksgiving, December 1st. Your final paper is due on December 18th with the final portfolio.

6. Portfolio: All your written work (with our comments on it) should be saved for submission in a final portfolio at the conclusion of the semester. While your professors differ in their preferred commenting styles (Michele will make all notes digitally and return papers via Moodle, and Carollee will be printing your papers and making comments by hand), all work should be submitted via Moodle. All work should be printed and placed in a Manila envelope for submission in a final portfolio, which is due December 18th outside Carollee’s office.


A NOTE ON INCOMPLETES: It is our policy NOT to offer students “incompletes” at the end of the semester, except in the case of extraordinary circumstances beyond a student's control. All work for this course must be completed by December 18th. Under no conditions are we obligated to negotiate an incomplete with a student. In those very rare cases when a student with a solid record of progress cannot meet the final deadline due to sudden hospitalization, severe illness, or a family emergency, we may decide to negotiate a new deadline with the student. In accordance with Hampshire policy, we will record the negotiated deadline by the Course Completion Deadline (December 19), at which time we will give the student an INC (“incomplete”). That new deadline cannot exceed the first day of the Spring semester. We have one month from that new deadline to evaluate and record the student's submitted work. If a student does not meet the new deadline, the INC will automatically convert to a NO EVAL.

Additional Info:

Course Materials, Screenings, and Computer Policy


Course Texts:

There are two required books for this course:

  • Ferrer, Ada. Insurgent Cuba: Race, Nation, and Revolution, 1868-1898. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999. This book is currently available at the Hampshire Bookstore.
  • Yáñez, Mirta. The Bleeding Wound/Sangra por la herida. Bilingual addition. Trans. By Sara Cooper. Chico, CA: Cubanabooks, 2014. This book is just now being published. We will let you know when it is available for purchase at the bookstore.

All other required reading will be available on the course Moodle site. All listed readings are required unless otherwise indicated. You are responsible to read and thoroughly digest the articles before the scheduled class session, and you must bring those readings with you to class. We recommend you print out readings, taking advantage of the printing allowance and/or using library printers where you can print double-sided copies for only 2 cents a side. We expect you to mark up your readings (underline, highlight) and take notes/write down questions that will help you write response papers and forum posts, as well as prepare you for class discussion.


Computers and Tablets:If you have reasons for using a laptop or tablet for reading course materials and bringing them to class, you must obtain permission from us first, and demonstrate that you have capabilities for highlighting and annotating digital texts or be willing to take a workshop on digital highlighting/annotation in the library. While you may, with permission, use devices for reading assignments and for notetaking, you may not use class time for social networking, email, messaging, or non-class-related browsing. (We hope this is obvious but we want to be explicit here.) Also, unless it is part of an assigned task, please resist the urge to look up things mentioned in class online; keep a list and look them up after class. Phones: turn your phone to silent (NOT to vibrate) and put it away before you arrive in class.


Screenings: There will be several required films during the semester, with screening dates on Sundays or Wednesdays at 7pm, location TBA. Sometimes a film will be available online also, but not always—please make space in your schedule for these screenings now. During the screening, take some notes about interesting or perplexing scenes, formal techniques, narrative patterns, and themes that emerge in the films. The better your notes, the better your forum posts and our class discussion will be!

We will be screenings films—related to the topic of the week—even on those Sundays when they are not required! See the final page of this syllabus for a complete schedule of this semester’s Cuban film series!


A Few More Things:


Writing Center: We encourage you to take advantage of the faculty in the Writing Center (Deb Gorlin: or x5531; Ellie Siegel,, Will Ryan,, offices located in Greenwich) for help with writing and revising your essays.


Library: We urge you to meet with and send research questions to Cultural Studies and Humanities librarian Bonnie Vigeland (x5649;, and/or CSI librarian Alana Kumbier ( For general help with assignments and research, stop by the PARC (Peer Academic Resource Center) or Infobar at the circulation desk in the library Mon-Wed 2-8pm, Thurs 12-8pm, or Fri 12-6pm, or email them at


Disability Services: If you have a disability that might affect your ability to meet the expectations of this course, please contact Joel Dansky, Disabilities Services Coordinator, at x5423 or, or stop by his office at CASA. You can also start the process online at Disabilities may include, but are not limited to, sensory impairments, mobility impairments, chronic illnesses, learning disabilities, attention deficit disorders, and psychological disabilities. If you register with Disability Services you will receive a letter to give to your professors informing them of any accommodations you require; without registration, I cannot make accommodations.


Academic Honesty: Here is the official statement from taskforce on plagiarism at Hampshire: "All Hampshire College students and faculty, whether at Hampshire or at other institutions, are bound by the ethics of academic integrity. [The entire description and college policy can be found in Non Satis Non Scire ( under Academic Policies/Ethics of Scholarship.] Plagiarism is the representation of someone else’s work as one’s own. Both deliberate and inadvertent misrepresentations of another’s work as your own are considered plagiarism and are serious breaches of academic honesty and integrity. All sources used or consulted in the process of writing papers and examinations, or preparing oral presentations, course assignments, artistic productions, and so on, must be cited. Sources include material from books, journals, or any other printed source; the work of other students, faculty, or staff; information from the Internet; software programs and other electronic material; designs and ideas.


"All cases of suspected plagiarism or academic dishonesty will be referred to the Dean of Advising who will review documentation and meet with student and faculty member. Individual faculty, in consultation with the Dean of Advising, will decide the most appropriate consequence in the context of the class. This can range from revising and resubmitting an assignment to failing the course. Beyond the consequence in the course, CASA considers first offenses as opportunities for education and official warning. Multiple or egregious offenses will have more serious consequences. Suspected instances of other breaches of the ethics of academic integrity, such as the falsification of data, will be treated with the same seriousness as plagiarism and will follow the same process."