(In) between identities: Representations of the island and the mulatto in nineteenth-century French fiction

Posted in Caribbean/Latin America, Dissertations, Literary/Artistic Criticism, Media Archive, Slavery on 2011-06-20 02:17Z by Steven

(In) between identities: Representations of the island and the mulatto in nineteenth-century French fiction

University of Wisconsin, Madison
205 pages
Publication Number: AAT 3186126
ISBN: 9780542274718

Molly Krueger Enz, Assistant Professor of French
South Dakota State University

A dissertation submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy (French)

This dissertation explores how five nineteenth-century authors depict the tension surrounding racial (in)equality in France’s island colonies through the creation of mulatto characters who are portrayed as “in-between” characters in exile. The thesis is divided into two sections, each based on a common a theme. The first part treats two novels containing mixed-race characters who criticize racial prejudice and the hypocrisy of metropolitan and colonial societies. In my first chapter, I examine how the protagonist of Dumas’s Georges devotes his life to ending racial discrimination against mulattoes on the Île de France and show that the figures of the island and mulatto are structured around similar tensions of isolation and self-sufficiency. My second chapter explores how mixed-race characters in Hugo’s Bug-Jargal refuse to be classified racially. I argue that race is changeable and reflects the unstable history of the island of Saint-Domingue. The second section of this study considers the themes of female heroism and oppression through the figures of the revolutionary, the “tragic mulatta,” and the épave. In the third chapter, I contend that the central mulatta character in Lamartine’s Toussaint Louverture, the product of her black mother’s rape by a white colonist, is depicted as a revolutionary heroine who symbolizes the political power struggle between France and Saint-Domingue. My fourth chapter claims that the “tragic mulatto” stereotype, previously studied in relation to American literature, can be applied to Sand’s eponymous white heroine in Indiana. In my fifth chapter on Madame Charles Reybaud’s “Les Éépaves” and Madame de Rieux, I argue that white female characters usurp traditional white male roles when they enter relationships with men of color. Furthermore, I analyze the figure of the “épave,” neither free nor slave, which I feel best represents the “in-between” nature of the mulatto. This dissertation analyzes geographic, racial, and gendered “in-between” spaces in French Romantic literature on colonialism to further develop an understanding of how marginalized identities were formed in the first half of the nineteenth century and how these identities in turn shaped Romanticism.

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction: Margins and Mixings
  • I. Prejudice and Hypocrisy: Criticisms of Metropolitan and Colonial Societies
    • CHAPTER ONE: The Mulatto as Island and the Island as Mulatto in Alexandre Dumas’s Georges
    • CHAPTER TWO: Mirroring, Monstrosity, and Métissage: Victor Hugo’s Bug-Jargal
  • II. Heroism and Oppression: The Revolutionary, the Tragic Mulatta, and the Épave
    • CHAPTER THREE: Female Revolutionary Heroism in Alphonse de Lamartine’s Toussaint Louverture
    • CHAPTER FOUR: Slavery and the Tragic Mulatto Stereotype in George Sand’s Indiana
    • CHAPTER FIVE: Who “Belongs” to Whom?: Sexual Politics in Two Works by Madame Charles Reybaud
  • Conclusion
  • Appendix
  • Works Cited
  • Works Consulted

Purchase the dissertation here.

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