poetry of revolution- romanticism and national projects in nineteenth-century haiti

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  • Poetry of Revolution: Romanticism and National Projects in Nineteenth-century Haiti

    by

    Amy Reinsel

    B.A. Indiana University, Bloomington, 1993

    M. A. University of Pittsburgh, 2000

    Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of

    Arts and Sciences in partial fulfillment

    of the requirements for the degree of

    Doctor of Philosophy

    University of Pittsburgh

    2008

  • ii

    UNIVERSITY OF PITTSBURGH

    Arts and Sciences

    This dissertation was presented

    by

    Amy Reinsel

    It was defended on

    July 30, 2008

    and approved by

    Dr. Seymour Derscher, Professor, Department of History

    Dr. Roberta Hatcher, Assistant Professor, Department of French and Italian

    Dr. Philip Watts, Associate Professor, Department of French and Italian

    Dissertation Advisor: Dr. Giuseppina Mecchia, Associate Professor, Department of French

    and Italian

  • iii

    This dissertation examines the largely dismissed nineteenth-century tradition of Romantic

    poetry in Haiti from the 1830s to the 1890s. I synthesize the conclusions of various studies

    prompted by the 2004 Haitian bicentennial in order to challenge the claims that nineteenth-

    century Haitian poems are banal parodies of French texts and simple preludes to twentieth-

    century Haiti literature. I argue that imitation becomes an impossible label with which to

    understand the complexities of Haitian poetry and national sentiment. Considering Haitis

    ambiguous relationship to modernity and the clairvoyance with which Haitian poets expressed

    national concerns, Haitian poetry constitutes a deliberate practice in the construction,

    legitimization and expression of national identity.

    In each of the three chapters I rely on historical context in order to situate the

    poetry and examine it through textual analysis. I explore in an initial chapter how political

    changes in Haiti in the 1820s, along with recognition of independence from France, coincided

    with the subsequent birth of Haitian Romanticism in the 1830s. The poetry of Coriolan Ardouin

    and Ignace Nau documents the development of poetic subjectivity and the inaugurating of

    Copyright by Amy Reinsel

    2008

    POETRY OF REVOLUTION: ROMANTICISM AND NATIONAL PROJECTS IN

    NINETEENTH-CENTURY HAITI

    Amy Reinsel, PhD

    University of Pittsburgh, 2008

  • iv

    national history which make this a pivotal period in Haitian poetry. A second chapter focuses on

    Haitis most prolific nineteenth-century poet, Oswald Durand, whose collection Rires et Pleurs

    includes poetry from the 1860s through the 1880s. Haitian theories of racial equality are

    expressed in Durands corpus and set within the thematic and aesthetic norms of French

    Romanticism, but the effort to inscribe a national and racial specificity enriches as much as it

    complicates his poetic project. In the final chapter, I document the shift that occurs for the last

    Haitian Romantic poet, Massillon Coicou. In his 1892 collection Posies Nationales, the

    confident project of asserting national identity gives way to the sense of national failure due to an

    increasingly triumphant imperialism and internal corruption. On the eve of the Haitian

    centennial, Coicous verse demonstrates the ways in which political crisis in Haiti are inherently

    tied to the notion of poetry. He ultimately turns to political activism, and his assassination in

    1908 symbolizes the demise of poetry as a viable, national project.

  • v

    TABLE OF CONTENTS

    1.0 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................................ 1

    2.0 PERSONAL HISTORIES, NATIONAL PASTS, AND REVOLUTIONARY

    POETRY: CORIOLAN ARDOUIN AND IGNACE NAU IN HAITI OF THE 1830S ........ 30

    2.1 INTRODUCTION ............................................................................................. 30

    2.2 CORIOLAN ARDOUIN AND IGNACE NAU: PERSONAL HISTORIES,

    PERSONAL POETRY ....................................................................................................... 42

    2.3 PRE-REVOLUTIONARY PASTS AND THE MAKING OF NATIONAL

    MYTHS 63

    2.4 POEMS ABOUT THE HAITIAN REVOLUTION ....................................... 83

    3.0 HAITIS NATIONAL BARD WRITERS NATURE, LOVE, AND NATION:

    THE RIRES ET PLEURS OF OSWALD DURAND ............................................................ 105

    3.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................... 105

    3.2 FRAMING A POETIC PROJECT ................................................................ 114

    3.3 THE MAKINGS OF A NATIONAL POET AND THE VICISSITUDES OF

    A COLLECTION ............................................................................................................. 124

    3.4 NATURE .......................................................................................................... 138

    3.5 LOVE ................................................................................................................ 149

    3.5.1 Love made him a poet ................................................................................. 149

  • vi

    3.5.2 Love on the Plantation ................................................................................ 156

    3.6 THE CAGED BIRD AND A POET IN CHAINS ......................................... 165

    3.7 RECASTING THE REVOLUTION .............................................................. 173

    3.8 LEGACY AND CONCLUSION .................................................................... 178

    4.0 NATIONAL POETRY AND FATEFUL POLITICS: THE WORK AND

    LEGACY OF MASSILLON COICOU .................................................................................. 180

    4.1 INTRODUCTION ........................................................................................... 180

    4.2 THE POET AND THE MUSE ....................................................................... 191

    4.3 WARS AND RUMORS OF WARS ............................................................... 200

    4.3.1 Triumphant imperialism and foreign invasions ....................................... 200

    4.3.2 Gun-boats and Yankees .............................................................................. 209

    4.3.3 Civil wars ...................................................................................................... 217

    4.4 RACE, NATION, AND COICOUS GNIE AFRICAIN ....................... 222

    4.5 POETRY AND BEYOND: FROM HAITI TO PARIS AND BACK AGAIN

    238

    4.6 POLITICAL CAUSES AND CONSPIRACIES ........................................... 245

    4.7 CONCLUSION ................................................................................................ 254

    5.0 CONCLUSION ......................................................................................................... 257

    APPENDIX A: POEMS BY CORIOLAN ARDOUIN AND IGNACE NAU ..................... 259

    APPENDIX B: POEMS BY OSWALD DURAND ................................................................ 280

    APPENDIX C : POEMS BY MASSILLON COICOU ......................................................... 314

    BIBLIOGRAPHY ..................................................................................................................... 341

  • vii

    PREFACE

    This dissertation would never have been possible without the intellectual acumen,

    genuine interest, and interminable enthusiasm of my director, Giuseppina Mecchia. I am grateful

    for her spirited involvement throughout all stages of this project. I sincerely thank all of my

    committee members, Seymour Drescher, Roberta Hatcher, and Phil Watts, for their ongoing

    insights and encouragement. I express special gratitude to Dennis Looney for his help with the

    Latin references in my third chapter and to both him and Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski for all

    their generosity during my graduate studies.

    Throughout this project I have been touched by the love of my brother Kevin and of my

    both of my parents. I dedicate this work to my mother for the ways she has inspired me

    academically and personally.

    As is the case with any long project, there are many challenges which arise and changes

    which transpire, changes which are personal and professional, expected and unexpected. It has

    been largely through the unexpected that I have benefited most from the strength and talents of

    so many of my peers. I cannot close this preface without saying to Alison, Nomie, Jamie,

    Teresa, Robin, and Aparna, that you have unassumingly offered much more than what was

    already limitless and engaging collegial support. You have permanently transformed for me the

    experience of friendship.

  • 1

    1.0 INTRODUCTION

    The events of January 1, 2004, marking the bicentennial of Haitis independence from France

    and the founding of the worlds first black republic, occasioned celebration but also protest

    against the government of then Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide. When unrest turned to

    armed struggle just two months later, the echoes of Haitis historic revolution, the result of the

    only successful slave revolt in history, combined with its subsequent legacy of political

    instability and relentless poverty to capture media attention around the world. Reflecting on the

    int