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Race, press and literature in nineteenth century transatlantic world

Grant number: 19/05283-7
Support type:Scholarships abroad - Research Internship - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): October 01, 2019
Effective date (End): May 31, 2020
Field of knowledge:Linguistics, Literature and Arts - Literature
Principal Investigator:Jefferson Cano
Grantee:Ligia Cristina Machado
Supervisor abroad: Pedro Meira Monteiro
Home Institution: Instituto de Estudos da Linguagem (IEL). Universidade Estadual de Campinas (UNICAMP). Campinas , SP, Brazil
Local de pesquisa : Princeton University, United States  
Associated to the scholarship:18/13697-3 - Miscegenation and African descent in the Atlantic context: abolitionist literature of the nineteenth century, BP.DR

Abstract

At the end of the eighteenth century, with the Haitian Revolution, the discussion about the space of blacks and Afro-descendants became considerable in the literary scene. The fear that such a black revolution could be repeated in other slave states and the astonishment before this victory made the texts about the revolution proliferate in the most diverse formats: letters, short stories, novels, travel literature, among others. In literary fictional productions, trying to explain the black victory on the Caribbean island was a great challenge for European authors who, steeped in the racial theories of the period, could not see Africa and its descendants without dwindling them. One could say that one of his questions was to try to explain the black inferiority proclaimed by the racial theories and its transgression represented by events like the Revolution of Haiti. If on the one hand racial theories strove to prove the inferiority of Africans and their descendants, on the other hand, for the literary scene it would not be so simple to deny this humanity in its fictional creations. Even if it was not the original intention, when trying to develop literary characters, the writers were compelled to formulate personalities and justifications for the actions of their characters, bringing to the surface what they imagined would be the reaction of blacks (and "mulattoes") in certain scenarios and dramatic situations. Thus, the first representations of the black in the literature were formed in a more systematized form. In France, Victor Hugo wrote Bug-Jargal (1826), a story that goes on during the revolution and has several black characters - from the heroic African warrior to the degenerate "mulatto". Because of the author's fame, the work circulated in several editions in the United States, where the discussions on slavery had intensified, at the beginning of the century. For African-American society, however, the interest in the Haitian Revolution had other meanings which were also represented in the earliest fictional writings by them. Theresa, the Haytien tale (1828) is one of those examples in which the image of revolution and blacks is remarkably different from that of Hugo. Still, it will be only in the middle of the century that the representation of the black will gain a new projection. Between the 1830s and 1860s, the phenomenon of slave narratives makes writings about slavery and black identity grow from their own point of view. In 1845, the story of Frederick Douglass becomes one of the most famous of these narratives. In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe, white and middle class, writes Uncle Tom's Cabin in which she stands resolutely against the slavery, although from a racist speech. Uncle Tom's Cabin had a huge diffusion around the world in proportions previously reached only by the bible. The intention of the research is to verify how the image of the literary black was constructed among authors consecrated and diffused in the nineteenth century, such as Victor Hugo and Harriet Stowe, and other's works, written by women and blacks, which have tried to give sense to the black individual within the literary production of this undeniably racist period. Through reading racial theorists, African-American journals, and letters from some writers, we will look at how blacks were represented in the literature of this period to see what has changed and what has been maintained between Haitian independence and the American civil war.