Publication Date

2014-05-01

Availability

Embargoed

Embargo Period

2016-04-30

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PHD)

Department

English (Arts and Sciences)

Date of Defense

2014-04-09

First Committee Member

Tim Watson

Second Committee Member

John Funchion

Third Committee Member

Kate Ramsey

Fourth Committee Member

Anna Brickhouse

Abstract

In the following work, I argue that writers in pre- and post-revolutionary Haiti and the United States conceived of liberty and resistance to sovereign power through disembodied figures that complicate the relationship between the physical body and the psyche, including sleepwalkers, spirits, and zombies. As a comparative analysis of lesser-known Haitian texts and canonical U.S. works, my project uncovers clear, multidirectional influences between the locales. First, I consider the meanings inscribed on tortured bodies in revolutionary Saint Domingue. I trace two important themes in Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines’ writings; Louverture uses metaphors of family and disease to sort out his relationship to French colonial powers, while Dessalines presents the spirits of the dead as disembodied figures who continued to resist French control. My project traces these understandings in Ignace Nau’s “Isalina” (1836), arguing that Haiti‘s nineteenth-century national literature utilized and reformulated disembodied figures. My third chapter turns to creative texts about the Haitian revolution, including the anonymously authored Mon Odysseé (circa 1799) and Sansay’s Secret History (1808), which propose novel means of separating the resistant subject from the tortured body. Finally, I argue that sleepwalkers in U.S. novels, including Brown’s Edgar Huntly (1799) and Stowe’s Dred (1856), position these disembodied figures as able to resist the encroachment of political power over territories. I ultimately argue that the disembodied figure so firmly rooted in resisting colonial power in Saint Domingue evolves throughout Haitian and U.S. literatures of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Keywords

Saint Domingue; Haiti; sleepwalkers; Toussaint Louverture; Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Mon Odysee

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