Research in African Literatures

Research in African Literatures
Volume 35, Number 2, Summer 2004
Special Issue: Haiti, 1804-2004: Literature, Culture, and Art

CONTENTS

    Munro, Martin.
  • Can't Stand Up for Falling Down: Haiti, Its Revolutions, and Twentieth-Century Negritudes
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    Subject Headings:
    • Haiti -- History -- Revolution, 1791-1804 -- Influence.
    • Senghor, Léopold Sédar, 1906- -- Criticism and interpretation.
    • Damas, Léon-Gontran, 1912-1978 -- Criticism and interpretation.
    • Césaire, Aimé -- Criticism and interpretation.
    • Negritude (Literary movement)
    Abstract:
      The repercussions of the Haitian Revolution have been the subject of much historical, economic, and political scholarship. Less attention has, however, been paid to the cultural after-effects of Haiti's anticolonial victory. This essay calls for a more thorough critical re-evaluation of how the Revolution impacted cultures in the Caribbean, in the New World, and globally. As a contribution to this process, the essay revisits and re-interprets the work of the three central figures of the Negritude movement—Senghor, Damas, and Césaire—and considers how Haiti shaped their respective visions of "blackness." In tracing references to Haiti in Negritude poetry, prose, and theater, it argues that the Revolution is of only marginal importance to the African Senghor, while for the Caribbeans Damas and Césaire, the first black republic in the New World is a persistent, if often ambiguous and contradictory, point of reference.
    Nesbitt, Nick, 1969-
  • Troping Toussaint, Reading Revolution
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    Subject Headings:
    • Haiti -- History -- Revolution, 1791-1804.
    • Hegel, Georg Wilhelm Friedrich, 1770-1831. Grundlinien der Philosophie des Rechts.
    • Césaire, Aimé. Toussaint Louverture: la Révolution française et le problème colonial.
    Abstract:
      What is the meaning of the Haitian Revolution for those who look back upon it in 2004? Does it reveal progress in social justice and universal human rights, or just the opposite? This essay focuses on the problem of progress and interpretation, looking to two interpretations of the Haitian Revolution that have received little or no analysis in this regard. While Aimé Césaire's Toussaint Louverture has remained virtually unanalyzed in Césaire studies, the first great analysis of the Haitian Revolution, that of Hegel's Philosophy of Right, offers an astonishingly progressive and sympathetic analysis that has yet to be considered in the literature on the revolution.
    Brière, Jean-François, 1945-
  • Abbé Grégoire and Haitian Independence
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    Subject Headings:
    • Grégoire, Henri, 1750-1831 -- Political and social views.
    • Haiti -- History -- Revolution, 1791-1804.
    • Blacks -- Civil rights -- Haiti.
    Abstract:
      This article examines the attitude of Abbé Grégoire, the abolitionist bishop who supported the French Revolution, towards Haitian independence. Because Grégoire remained steadfast in his beliefs that republican universalism and the Christian faith were the key to social and moral progress, his attitude toward the independence of Saint-Domingue changed. Until 1802, Grégoire remained hostile to such independence because he saw the colonial bond between revolutionary continental France and its colonies as a way to bring freedom and equality to oppressed black people in the West Indies. Following his unsuccessful attempt to extend the arm of the French constitutional church to Saint-Domingue, the re-establishment of slavery, and the failed French expedition aimed at retaking control of Saint-Domingue (1802), Grégoire switched his position to supporting Haitian independence, seeing the new republic as the last remaining territory to carry the revolutionary ideals of liberty and equality. While his personal situation worsened during the Restoration, Grégoire remained very supportive of Haiti. He was, however, saddened to see the Haitian republic run by an authoritarian regime and later by the country's apparent willingness to satisfy France's conditions for the recognition of Haitian independence.
    Dash, J. Michael.
  • Nineteenth-Century Haiti and the Archipelago of the Americas: Anténor Firmin's Letters from St. Thomas
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    Subject Headings:
    • Firmin, Joseph-Anténor, 1850-1911. Lettres de Saint-Thomas.
    • Haiti -- Intellectual life -- 19th century.
    Abstract:
      This essay examines the question of black internationalism in the last work written by Anténor Firmin, The Letters from St. Thomas. These letters, written in exile on the island of St. Thomas, reveal Firmin's thoughts on the question of racial difference, national identity and Haiti's hemispheric role. Because of the tendency to see nineteenth-century Haitian intellectuals as alienated and unenlightened, the complexity of Firmin's thought, generally dismissed as universalist and cosmopolitan, has been overlooked. In calling into question fetishistic and exclusivist notions of race and territory that were very popular at the time, Firmin makes the case for crosscultural negotiations and post-territorial theorizing that anticipate the ideas of later Caribbean thinkers such as Edouard Glissant and Frantz Fanon.
    Lucas, Rafaël.
    Mitsch, R. H., tr.
  • The Aesthetics of Degradation in Haitian Literature
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    Subject Headings:
    • Haitian literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
    Abstract:
      Between the end of the American Occupation in Haïti (1934) an the beginning of the Duvalier regime in the 1960s, Haitian literature is posited around three codes of positive reference: indigenism, magical realism, and Marxism. The obscurantism and totalitarianism of the Duvalier dictatorship (1957-86) with its spiral of underdevelopment and its destructive and destructuring tendencies, left a mark on both the environment and the imaginary. The symbolism of Ruin becomes a powerful presence in literature, and the result is a break with the descriptive system of magical realism and the emergence of a new aesthetic: the Aesthetics of Decay, highly visible in the title of works. This can be observed notably through the theme of zombification, the treatment of space (particularly urban space), and the replacement of Promethean hero by collective heroes, heroines or anti-heroes. It is a new literature based on a new system of aesthetics, but also one that aims to denounce social ills in the strongest possible terms and places a quasi-mystical value on change.
    Francis, Donette A.
  • "Silences Too Horrific to Disturb": Writing Sexual Histories in Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory
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    Subject Headings:
    • Danticat, Edwidge, 1969- Breath, eyes, memory.
    • Sex crimes in literature.
    • Women in literature.
    Abstract:
      Women's stories of sexual abuse are often subordinated to larger political narratives of the nation-state, and this is especially true of Haiti, where the nation's political upheavals, poverty, and refugees overwhelm the global imagination. This essay reads Edwidge Danticat's Breath, Eyes, Memory as a fictional counternarrative that chronicles how empires, the postcolonial state, and the patriarchal family have abused, exposed, and compromised the sexed bodies of Caribbean women and girls. By inscribing these unofficial memories into the historical narrative of the Haitian nation-state, Danticat counters the systemic violence of erasure deployed by various cultural apparatuses that aim to conceal violence against women. In so doing, she makes explicit the political implications of these occurrences for women's experiences of citizenship.
    Kemedjio, Cilas.
    Mitsch, R. H., tr.
  • Postcolonial Mythologies: Jean Metellus and the Writing of Charismatic Memory
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    Subject Headings:
    • Métellus, Jean, 1937- Jacmel au crépuscule.
    • Métellus, Jean, 1937- Année Dessalines.
    • Dessalines, Jean-Jacques, 1758-1806 -- In literature.
    • Heroes in literature.
    Abstract:
      The movements for cultural and political emancipation that led to the abolition of slavery as well as the independences grew out of a charismatic scenario, which in this essay means that the struggle for freedom was centered around a charismatic figure. Postcolonial mythologies are thus to be understood as an attempt to re-appropriate decolonization through the formulation of a new imaginary in the postcolony. The present study intends to analyze, from the writings of Haitian writer Jean Metellus, the process of mythification (of historical heroism, the crystallization of the founding figure of Jean-Jacques Dessalines as a catalyst of new existential, historic, and symbolic legitimacies. The strategies of marginalization set in place by postindependence authorities, the contemporary context of failure that lends credibility anew to the nostalgia for these messianic figures, and the limits of postcolonial mythology constitute the main points of this study.
    Paravisini-Gebert, Lizabeth.
  • The Haitian Revolution in Interstices and Shadows: A Re-reading of Alejo Carpentier's The Kingdom of This World
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    Subject Headings:
    • Carpentier, Alejo, 1904- Reino de este mundo.
    • Haiti -- History -- Revolution, 1791-1804 -- Literature and the revolution.
    Abstract:
      Alejo Carpentier's The Kingdom of this World (1949), the only sustained literary rendering of the Haitian Revolution in the Spanish Caribbean, is known both for its fictional treatment of Haitian history from a slave's perspective and for the preface that claimed for that history the distinction of epitomizing marvelous realism in the Americas. This reading of the text's approach to one of the salient foundational narratives of Caribbean history looks at how, despite the "minute correspondence of dates and chronology" of the events narrated in The Kingdom of This World, the version of Haitian history offered by Carpentier is a fractured tale whose fissures may be read as subverting the adherence to the facts of Haitian history and its primary sources that the author claims for his text. It looks specifically as how the erasure of the leaders of the Revolution from the text, particularly that of Jean-Jacques Dessalines, reveals Carpentier's hopelessness concerning the Haitian land and its people.
    Lang, George (George M.)
  • A Primer of Haitian Literature in Kreyòl
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    Subject Headings:
    • Haitian literature (French Creole) -- History and criticism.
    Abstract:
      The early history of Haitian Kreyòl remains subject to intense debate among linguists, though there is no doubt it was the principal medium through which slave revolts were organized and the foundations of Haitian culture set. By the end of the nineteenth century there were already significant literary texts, in particular Oswald Durand's "Choucoune" and Georges Sylvian's Cric? Crac! During the thirties and forties, proponents of Kreyòl struggled to have it recognized as the national language and standardized. This process did not bear fruit until the IPN (Institut de pédagogie national) orthography became official in the eighties. Beginning in the fifties, there had already been a renaissance of poetry in Kreyòl, the leading figure of which was Feliks Moriso-Lewa. At least two generations of writers have followed in his footsteps. In the person of Franketyèn, Kreyòl has one of the most fascinating contemporary writers in world literature.
    Jonassaint, Jean, 1950-
  • Beyond Painting or Writing: Frankétienne's Poetic Quest
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    Subject Headings:
    • Frankétienne -- Criticism and interpretation.
    • Painting, Haitian.
    Abstract:
      Frankétienne is known first and foremost as a writer. It is his paintings, however, that this article examines, for they are the most relevant to understanding the poetics of what Frankétienne calls the spirale, and also to explaining how these works—produced in the wake of his literary experiences linked partly to the French nouveau roman—enrich and transform his writing with L'oiseau schizophone (1993) and more radically with H'Éros-Chimères (2002). Indeed, this latest book, more than other francophone works, pushed to its furthest limit the integration of image and text into one great whole. Of course, no one has a complete knowledge of Frankétienne's visual production since 1973. Therefore, this first incursion into this universe is mainly focused on some paintings and key moments of this huge artistic work to show its governing principles, which are quite different from those of well-known Haitian artists such as Duffaut, Télémaque, or Basquiat.

Commentary

    Dayan, Joan, 1949-
  • A Few Stories about Haiti, or, Stigma Revisited
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    Subject Headings:
    • Haiti -- History.
    • Haiti -- Social conditions.
    Abstract:
      In revisiting the history of Haiti, this essay demonstrates the powerful presence of this site as both a source of pride and denigration. Taking Frederick Douglass's arrival as minister resident and consul general to the Haitian government of Louis Florvil Hyppolite in 1889 as focus, the analysis deals with the attempted acquisition of the Mole St. Nicholas by the United States, and Douglass's memorial in the final chapters of his Life and Times (1892) to citizens of the United States, described as "sharks, pirates and Shylocks, greedy for money, no matter at what cost of life and misery to mankind." As Douglass understood, "the badge of servitude" remained too powerful an apparatus to lose. Its terms underwrote—and still sustain—the network of images that perpetuate such antinomies as civility and brutality, ability and deficiency: the rules for a modern concept of servility.

Review Essay

    Hurley, E. Anthony.
  • Translating Jacques Stephen Alexis
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    Subject Headings:
    • Alexis, Jacques Stéphen, 1922-1961. In the flicker of an eyelid.
    • Coates, Carrol F., 1930-, tr.
    • Danticat, Edwidge, 1969-, tr.
    • Haitian fiction.

Book Reviews

    Murdoch, H. Adlai.
  • A Turbulent Time: The French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Gaspar, David Barry, ed. Turbulent time: the French Revolution and the Greater Caribbean.
    • Geggus, David Patrick, ed.
    • West Indies -- History.
    Sampedro, Benita.
  • Divine Utterances: The Performance of Afro-Cuban Santería (review)
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    Subject Headings:
    • Hagedorn, Katherine J. Divine utterances: the performance of Afro-Cuban Santería.
    • Santeria music -- History and criticism.

Color Plates




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