Although I started off as a specialist in Comparative Literature, with a focus on late-nineteenth- and early-twentieth century British, French, and Italian literature, my research for the past several decades has been largely devoted to post/colonial writing, with a particular focus on Anglophone and Francophone Caribbean literature and theory (see below for an annotated list of my book publications). I am currently working on a SSHRC-funded project entitled Phoenix Rising: Race, Literacy, and the Emergence of Early Haitian Literature. Recent articles that may eventually find their way into the planned monograph include “The Cry of History: Juste Chanlatte and the Unsettling (Presence) of Race in Early Haitian Literature” (MLN 130.4, 2015) and “A Flexible Quill: Abbé de Lahaye’s Role in Late Colonial Saint-Domingue, 1787-1791 – The Legend and the Life” (Atlantic Studies 15.4, 2018), as well as a chapter in the edited collection Haiti’s Literary Legacies: Romanticism and the Unthinkable Revolution (Bloomsbury, 2022) entitled “The Shadow of Voltaire: Early Haitian Literature and the Claims of Intertextuality.”
Whereas my research has, for quite some time now, been very precisely focused on the Haitian Revolution and its immediate aftermath (1791-1825), and fits within specific interdisciplinary rubrics such as Transatlantic Romanticism and Global Nineteenth-Century Studies, my teaching and supervision interests cover a wide array of topics and time periods. Recent undergraduate courses I have taught include “Introductory Approaches to Cultural Studies” (ENGL 292), “Nineteenth-Century Transatlantic Literature” (ENGL 349), and fourth-year seminars on popular culture (“Late Victorian Popular Fiction,” “Zombies: A Post/Colonial History”). I have taught a range of graduate courses in Romantic, Victorian, Modernist, and Postcolonial Literatures, including, most recently, a seminar on “Caribbean Modernisms.”
- Caribbean Literature and History
- The Haitian Revolution, Haitian Studies
- Postcolonial Theory, Critical Race Studies
- Black British Literary and Cultural Studies
- Transatlantic Romanticism
- Slavery and Abolition Studies
- Victorian and Modernist Popular Culture
- The Global Nineteenth Century
In April 2014, I published a translation and edition of Baron de Vastey’s Le système colonial dévoilé (The Colonial System Unveiled). Vastey, the most visible Haitian intellectual of the post-independence era, wrote a number of books in the 1810s while working for King Henri Christophe; his Colonial System Unveiled is a scathing denunciation of neocolonialism, as well as a moving memorial to the ravages of slavery. This translation/edition was a collaborative project that included essays written by several prominent scholars in the field of Haitian revolutionary studies.
The way in which Haiti has been represented by both colonial novelists and contemporary politicians is one of the central concerns of the “sequel” to Islands and Exiles, Friends and Enemies: The Scribal Politics of Post/Colonial Literature. The main preoccupations of Friends and Enemies can be summed up in the title of its Introduction: “Politics, Memory, Literature.” This book, which examines—both to question and to promote—the “political turn” of postcolonial studies in the first decade of the twenty-first century, is a three-pronged study primarily focused on (1) early (1798-1833) and (2) recent (1998-2004) representations of the abolition of slavery in general, and the Haitian Revolution in particular; and (3) the marketing of canonical Caribbean literature (Derek Walcott, Maryse Condé, Édouard Glissant).
An archivally-based French edition of Jean-Baptiste Picquenard’s Adonis (1798) and Zoflora (1800), among the first novels ever written about the Haitian Revolution.
Islands and Exiles produced several spin-off projects: notably, a translation and critical edition of Victor Hugo’s 1826 novel about the Haitian Revolution, Bug-Jargal.
The chapter on Pasolini in Exotic Memories anticipated the more contemporary focus of parts of my second book, Islands and Exiles: The Creole Identities of Post/Colonial Literature, which was a study of the “creolization” process and its relevance to both colonial and postcolonial literatures. The texts studied in this book ranged in date from the late eighteenth century (Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s Paul et Virginie) to the present (chapters on francophone Caribbean writers Edouard Glissant and Daniel Maximin, but also sections on Anglophone writers such as J. M. Coetzee and Keri Hulme). Shuttling back and forth between colonial and postcolonial literature, with a few intermediary stops on the way (such as an extended discussion of the role of Haiti in Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!), I developed the concept of the “post/colonial” in order to identify the ways in which “the colonial and the postcolonial appear uneasily as one, joined together and yet also divided in a relation of (dis)continuity.”
My first book, based on my Stanford dissertation (supervised by Mary Louise Pratt), was entitled Exotic Memories: Literature, Colonialism and the Fin de siècle: I there examined late nineteenth-century exoticism and its thwarted desire for an “elsewhere,” focusing in particular on Jules Verne, Pierre Loti, Joseph Conrad, and Victor Segalen. The concluding chapter brought the story of European exoticism forward to the 1960s and ‘70s with a consideration of the role of neo-exoticism in the work of Italian writer and film-maker Pier Paolo Pasolini.
Virtually all of my articles and book chapters, as well as excerpts from several of the above-cited books, are available for consultation on my Academia.edu page.