“The Sea is History”

For this paper I would like you to choose either “The Sea is History” by Derek Walcott or “Diving into the Wreck” by Adrienne Rich and write a paper with a thesis that responds to the corresponding prompt below. Address one of the prompts by analyzing the poem itself; do not use any outside sources or material. (Choose only one of the prompts below.)

Derek Walcott’s poem “The Sea is History” is an extended metaphor about the meaning and significance of history. Walcott, a poet, playwright, and painter from the island of Saint Lucia, often reflected on colonialism and postcolonialism in his work, and “The Sea is History” is a good example of this theme. In the poem, he takes up the question of the role of history for a place that is often said to have no history, especially in the context of euro-centric understandings of world history. Here, Walcott uses the image of the sea–often thought of as a blank void–as the location of his island’s history. Write a paper that discusses Walcott’s representation of history. In the context of the poem, what makes historical events significant? How does he depict his island’s history and how does he recover this history’s significance?
Adrienne Rich’s poem “Diving into the Wreck” uses the imagery of a deep sea exploration of a ship wreck to represent how one comes to gain knowledge, about oneself and the world. Maps, a compass, a camera are some of the tools the poem discusses for the attainment of knowledge about the wreck. Rich, a feminist poet, often explored themes of sexuality that questioned gender norms. In addition to representing the production of knowledge in general, this poem also destabilizes gender norms as the speaker of the poem becomes disidentified from these norms by the poem’s end. Write a paper that discusses how Rich represents the attainment of knowledge or the act of exploration. What does she show us about these activities? Do they clarify the subject they study–does the speaker of the poem gain knowledge about the wreck? Or, does she gain some understanding of herself? Or is it both? And what is the significance of Rich’s representations of this process?

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Warning: Both of these poems are very popular and are widely discussed on the Web. I know about these sites and I will know if you get information or, more importantly, analysis from them. Be sure that you are reading the poems in isolation and basing your paper on your own interpretation.

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