This independent study involves transcription, translation, conversion of PDFs to word documents, digitization, and other forms of preparation of important Haitian revolutionary texts for educational use and eventual anthologization. The immediate goal of the project is the preparation of selected texts for a Spring 2011 Duke/Université d’Etat Haïti faculty seminar by teleconferencing on the subject of the literary legacies of Toussaint Louverture and Jean-Jacques Dessalines. This independent study is appropriate for students with a love of texts and manuscripts, and an appreciation of the challenge international print culture represented for former slaves. French is desirable but not required, as many of the texts treated in the group study will be from contemporary U.S. translations. Students will learn to work with rare texts such as handwritten letters by Toussaint Louverture that feature his singular, phonetic understanding of the French language, in which he had had no formal education. They will learn to consider the difference between the mechanisms and meanings of print culture in Western metropoles and for emerging political and philosophical voices in the African diaspora. Students will be encouraged to apply for funding to take research trips to designated archives.
Photo: Detail from Haitian Independence stationery, 1805 (courtesy of Deborah Jenson)