Tropics of Haiti
Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865
Liverpool University Press 2015
New Books in Arts & LettersNew Books in Caribbean StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Literary StudiesNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in World AffairsNew Books Network April 18, 2016 Dan Livesay
Marlene Daut tackles the complicated intersection of history and literary legacy in her book Tropics of Haiti: Race and the Literary History of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World, 1789-1865 (Liverpool University Press, 2015). She not only describes the immediate political reaction to the Haitian Revolution, but traces how writers, novelists, playwrights, and scholars imposed particular racial assumptions onto that event for decades afterward. Specifically, she identifies a number of recurring tropes that sought to assign intense racial divisions to the Haitian people. Individuals of joint African and European heritage, she contends, received the blunt of these attacks, as they were portrayed as monstrous, vengeful, mendacious, and yet also destined for tragedy. Moreover, observers and chroniclers of the Revolution maintained that these supposed characteristics produced ever-lasting discord with black Haitians. Daut analyzes hundreds of fictional and non-fictional accounts to argue that portrayals of the Haitian Revolution, and of the country itself, have long suffered under these false assumptions of exceptional racial problems. She has also produced a compendium of Haitian fiction during this period, in conjunction with the book. You can find it here.