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Author: Karen Richman
syllabus for Creole Language and Culture

ILS 30102: Creole Language and Culture

Course Description

This course introduces students to the language of Haitian Kreyòl, or Creole, and to the culture of its speakers.  The course is intended for students with no prior knowledge of the language and will develop both reading and writing skills--emphasizing communicative competence as well as grammatical and phonetic techniques.  Importantly, this study of Kreyòl explores the language's social and cultural elements, as seen in Haiti and elsewhere in the Caribbean.  The course includes an anthropological survey of Haitian history, economy, politics and religion.  In addition to class work, audio tapes, music and film combine for a multilateral approach to language development.  The program is designed to meet the needs of those who plan to conduct research in Haiti or in the Haitian diaspora, or who intend to work in a volunteer or professional capacity either in Haiti or with Haitians abroad.

Course Objectives

  • Build elementary skills in listening, reading, writing, and speaking Creole.
  • Gain basic insights into Haitian history, society, culture, and religion.
  • Diagnose individual learning processes and achievement in order to continue as an independent learner.


There are no prerequisites for this course; it is designed for beginners and those wishing to refresh their skills.

Required Textbook

Additional Texts

  • Brown, Karen McCarthy. Mama Lola : A Vodou Priestess in Brooklyn. Europäische Verlagsanstalt, 2000. (preview)
  • Cadet, Jean-Robert. Restavec: From Haitian Slave-Child to Middle-Class American.  University of Texas Press, 1998.  (preview)
  • DeGraff, Michel. "Creole Exceptionalism and the (Mis)Education of the Creole Speaker" in The Languages of Africa and the Diaspora: Educating for Language Awareness. Jo Anne Kleifgen & George Bond, eds., Bristol: Multilingual Matters, 2009. (preview) (download pdf)
  • Chamoiseau, Patrick, School Days. University of Nebraska Press, 1997. (preview)
  • Laforest, Marie-Helene. Homelands in the Butterfly’s Way: Voices from the Haitian Dyaspora in the United States. edited by Edwidge Danticat.  New York: Soho, 2001.
  • Mintz, Sidney. "The Caribbean as a Socio-Cultural Area." In Cahiers d’Histoire Mondiale. Commission Internationale pour Une Histoire du Developpement Scientifique et Culturel de L'Humanite, 1966.
  • Richman, Karen. "A Lavalas at Home/A Lavalas for Home": Inflections of Transnationalism in the Discourse of Haitian President Aristide.  In Towards a Transnational Perspective on Migration: Race, Class, Ethnicity and Nationalism Reconsidered, Linda Basch, Nina Glick-Schiller and Cristina Blanc-Szanton, eds.  New York Academy of the Sciences. 1992.
  • Richman, Karen. Migration and Voodoo. University Press of Florida, 2005. (purchase this book)
  • Valdman, Albert. "The Linguistic Situation of Haiti."  In Haiti–today and tomorrow, edited by Charles R. Foster and Albert Valdman.  University Press of America, 1984.

Further Reading

These texts will not explicitly be covered in class, but address very pertinent issues of the course.

  • Kidder, Tracy. "Trials of Haiti."  The Nation.  27 Oct 2003. (read online)
  • Metraux, Alfred. Voodoo in Haiti. Pantheon, 1989.
  • Richman, Karen. "Miami Money and the Home Gal." Anthropology and Humanism: Vol 27, issue 2, 2002. (purchase this article)
  • Wainwright, Babette. "Fencing out the People." Haiti Progress, Vol. 17, no. 7, 5-11, May 1999. (read online)


  • Haitian Song. Karen Kramer (dir). USA, 1981. (preview)
  • La Rue Cases-Nègres. Euzhan Palcy (dir).  France, 1983. (description)
  • Legacy of the Spirits. Karen Kramer (dir). USA, 1985. (preview)
  • To Serve the Gods. Maya Deren (dir). UK, 1982. (preview)


  • Kannte. by Ti Manno and the Gemini All Stars.Canter.  Recorded on Gemini All Stars de Ti Manno by Ti Manno and the Gemini All Stars.  Recorded by Robert Denis at Audioteck of Port-au-Prince, Distributed by Musiqiue des Antilles Records, Inc., 1981.
  • Jean, Wyclef. “Jaspora.” Presents the Carnival. Sony Music/ Columbia Records, 1997. (lyrics and translation)
  • Jean, Wyclef. “Yele.” Presents the Carnival. Sony Music/ Columbia Records, 1997. (lyrics and translation)
  • "Sida." Ti Manno and the Gemini All Stars. Gemini All Stars.  Recorded by Robert Denis at Audioteck of Port-au-Prince, Distributed by Musiqiue des Antilles Records, Inc., 1981 (lyrics and translation)

Online Links

resources that may be of supplementary help



Component Percentage
Take Home Essays on Books/Articles (2)

Quizzes (weekly)
Midterm and Final Exams
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