Tropics of Haiti

BookTropics of Haiti

Tropics of Haiti

Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865

Liverpool Studies in International Slavery, 8


July 17th, 2015



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The Haitian Revolution (1791–1804) was an event of monumental world-historical significance, and here, in the first systematic literary history of those events, Haiti's war of independence is examined through the eyes of its actual and imagined participants, observers, survivors, and cultural descendants. The 'transatlantic print culture' under discussion in this literary history reveals that enlightenment racial 'science' was the primary vehicle through which the Haitian Revolution was interpreted by nineteenth-century Haitians, Europeans, and U.S. Americans alike. Through its author's contention that the Haitian revolutionary wars were incessantly racialized by four constantly recurring tropes—the 'monstrous hybrid', the 'tropical temptress', the 'tragic mulatto/a', and the 'colored historian'—Tropics of Haiti shows the ways in which the nineteenth-century tendency to understand Haiti's revolution in primarily racial terms has affected present day demonizations of Haiti and Haitians. In the end, this new archive of Haitian revolutionary writing, much of which has until now remained unknown to the contemporary reading public, invites us to examine how nineteenth-century attempts to paint Haitian independence as the result of a racial revolution coincide with present-day desires to render insignificant and 'unthinkable' the second independent republic of the New World.


'Groundbreaking and ambitious, expressively written and expertly researched, Tropics of Haiti creates a new canon of historical Haitian literary and cultural materials, and establishes the author as a scholar of outstanding import in studies of the African diaspora in Western modernity.'
Duke University

'The body of literature that Daut covers is vast: memoirs, pamphlets, tracts, and early histories as well as conventional literary writings. Tropics of Haiti is a major intervention, offering the first exhaustive study of the transatlantic print culture of the Haitian Revolution.' 
Anna Brickhouse, University of Virginia

'Tropics of Haiti is an incredibly well-organized and meticulously researched work, supported by the scholarship of authorities in literary criticism and history such as Chris Bongie,Doris Garraway, Wernor Sollors, and Pierre Boulle.  Scholars of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century literature will find Tropics of Haiti a valuable addition to their libraries.'
Tomaz Cunningham, L'Esprit Créateur

'Conceived in what can be described as a comparative, transatlantic, and hemispheric framework, Tropics of Haiti is part of a crucial wave of literary criticism that seeks to not only refocus our attention on nineteenth-century Haitian studies but expand the U.S. American literary canon and contribute to the transnational turn in American Studies by exposing cultural links across the Atlantic and the Caribbean.'
Michael Dash, Postcolonial Text

'We must applaud researchers like Marlene Daut who offer substantive means with which to rethink and rewrite our stories of the Haitian past.'
Kaiama L. Glover, North West Indian Guide Review

'A literary tour-de-force, Daut’s Tropics of Haiti offers an Atlantic counterpart to Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978). Peeling back the layers of the mulatto/a vengeance narrative, Daut reveals how authors from across the Atlantic world contributed to the creation of racialized tropes about Haiti and its founding event.'
Erin Zavitz, Small Axe

'Tropics of Haiti shines a bright light on the way nineteenth-century thinking about “race” as biology-cum-ontology has crept into present-day understandings of “race.” Daut illuminates how “race” as metaphor and “race” as pseudoscientific category function in tandem to determine the writing of Haitian revolutionary history.'
Kaiama L. Glover, New West Indian Guide

'Daut’s masterful, extensive literary history of the Haitian Revolution in Tropics of Haiti enacts many of the principles she previously set out in her assessment of the emerging field of US-Haitian scholarship.'
Chelsea Stieber, Early American Literature

Author Information

Marlene L. Daut is Associate Professor of African Diaspora Studies at the Carter G. Woodson Institute for African American and African Studies and the Program in American Studies at the University of Virginia. She specializes in early and nineteenth-century American and Caribbean literary and cultural studies. Her work has been supported with grants from the Ford Foundation, the National Endowment in the Humanities, and the National Humanities Center (Research Triangle Park).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures7
Introduction: The “Mulatto/a” Vengeance of ‘Haitian Exceptionalism’13
Part One61
“Monstrous Hybridity” in Colonial and Revolutionary Writing from Saint-Domingue85
Baron de Vastey, Colonial Discourse, and the Global “Scientific” Sphere122
Victor Hugo and the Rhetorical Possibilities of “Monstrous Hybridity” in Nineteenth-Century Revolutionary Fiction164
Part Two209
Moreau de Saint-Méry’s Daughter and the Anti-Slavery Muse of La Mulâtre comme il y a beaucoup de blanches (1803)232
‘Born to Command’: Leonora Sansay and the Paradoxes of Female Benevolence as Resistance in Zelica; the Creole265
‘Theresa’ to the Rescue! African American Women’s Resistance and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution300
Part Three341
“Black” Son, “White” Father: The Tragic “Mulatto/a” and the Haitian Revolution in Victor Séjour’s ‘Le Mulâtre’357
Between the Family and the Nation: Lamartine, Toussaint Louverture, and the “Interracial” Family Romance of the Haitian Revolution385
A ‘Quarrel between Two Brothers’: Eméric Bergeaud’s Ideal History of the Haitian Revolution424
Part Four471
The Color of History: The Transatlantic Abolitionist Movement and the ‘Never-to-be-Forgiven Course of the Mulattoes’486
Victor Schoelcher, ‘L’imagination Jaune,’ and the Francophone Genealogy of the ‘Mulatto Legend of History’536
‘Let us be Humane after the Victory’: Pierre Faubert’s ‘New Humanism’580
CODA: Today’s ‘Haitian Exceptionalism’617