How do we approach something we don't know much about? My goal is not to provide students with a formula for cross-cultural encounters, but to encourage everyone to ask themselves this kind of question.

Raphael Dalleo

"Reading works from diverse cultures allows students to explore the potential for ethical encounters with people from radically different backgrounds, recognizing common humanity while acknowledging differences," says Professor Raphael Dalleo, English. "That's why so many of my courses begin with a discussion on empathy."

Dalleo's course on literature and human rights covers fiction, nonfiction, poetry and drama from such diverse locations as Kenya, Guatemala, Chile, South Africa, Haiti and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He also teaches numerous courses devoted exclusively to the literature of the Caribbean, a region that holds special interest for him.

"Much of my research has focused on colonialism and its impact on Caribbean culture," Dalleo says. "The region is ideal for study because so many imperial powers were involved there, including Spain, France, Holland, England, Denmark and the United States."

Dalleo's book American Imperialism's Undead  examines the U.S. occupation of Haiti and the rise of anti-colonialism it inspired in the Caribbean.

"Scathing critiques of the U.S. throughout the Caribbean eventually led to our withdrawal in 1934," Dalleo explains. "But political activism was just one outcome of the occupation. Primitivism, inspired by Caribbean culture, came into style in the U.S., where it was embraced as both exotic and as an antidote to modernity." The book was awarded the Caribbean Studies Association's Gordon K. and Sibyl Lewis Award for best book about the Caribbean.

Another of Dalleo's courses, Harlem Renaissance, includes a day trip to Harlem, where students take a guided walking tour of the neighborhood, sample ethnic cuisine and visit the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, where they have the opportunity to study original documents and drafts of manuscripts. The trip is made possible by a Bucknell Humanities Center grant that supports cultural learning experiences outside of the classroom. "It's great to be a part of an institution that offers this level of support," he says.

According to Dalleo, reading world literature allows students to critically engage with other cultures and think about their own place in the world.

"How do we approach something we don't know much about?" he asks. "My goal is not to provide students with a formula for cross-cultural encounters, but to encourage everyone to ask themselves this kind of question."

Posted July 2018