Haitian Culture and Literature

Prof. Corine Stofle's French 366 is an introduction to Haiti's fascinating history and literature

October 23, 2020

In the last few decades, Haiti has come to be known for repeated calamities: earthquakes, hurricanes, droughts followed by floods and vice versa, dictatorships, cholera, etc. These catastrophes, says Prof. Corine Stofle, tend to overshadow thriving avant-garde movements and a truly unique history—Haiti’s is the only successful slave revolution in the Caribbean.

We're fascinated. Prof. Stofle's fall literature course, French 366: Introduction to Haitian Culture and Literature, has us wanting to dust off our French and take a deep dive into Haitian history and literary art. 

In this course, students explore the relationship between historical conditions and literary form, beginning with Haiti’s 1804 declaration of independence from France. Reading a selection of poetry, novels, and recent short stories with noir leanings, the course asks students think through how, in time, Haitian authors reinvented their literature in the wake of the revolution, and later negotiated the dangerous necessity of writing under the brutal Duvalier dictatorships. Through texts by women authors, students explore what it means to write at the intersection of race and gender. Finally, the prolific Haitian diaspora help students consider the poetics of exile.

Prof. Stofle is a native Guadeloupean, and she visits the Caribbean as often as possible. Her research and teaching focus on Caribbean, sub-Saharan, and urban literatures of French expression; postcolonial critique and decolonial critique; utopia/dystopia studies; and theories of humor. 

Discussion and core readings for this upper division French course are all in French, but excellent translations exist, and for those of us who want to follow along, Prof. Stofle includes these in the list below. 

Selected Readings

  • Tonnerre, Boisrond. Liberté ou la mort (Acte d'indépendance d'Haïti), 1804.
  • Vieux-Chauvet, Marie. Amour, Colère et Folie. Paris: Zulma, 2015. (originally published in 1968)
    [Chauvet, Marie. Love, Anger, Madness: a Haitian Trilogy. Edited by Edwidge Danticat. Translated by Réjouis Rose-Myriam and Val Vinokur. Modern Library, 2019.]
  • Frankétienne. Mûr à Crever. Paris: Hoëbeke, 2013. (originally published in 1968)
    [Frankétienne. Ready to Burst. Translated by Kaiama L. Glover. Brooklyn, New York: Archipelago Books, 2014.]
  • Danticat, Edwidge. Haı̈ti Noir. Paris: Asphalte, 2012. 
    [Danticat, Edwidge. Haiti Noir. New York, New York: Akashic Books, 2011.]
  • Laferrière Dany. Tout bouge autour de moi. Paris: Grasset, 2011. 
    [Laferrière Dany. The World Is Moving around Me: a Memoir of the Haiti Earthquake. Translated by David Homel. Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2017.]
  • Gay, Roxane. Ayiti. New York, New York: Grove Press, 2008. 

Tags: Academics, Courses We’d Love To Take, Professors