Mariana F. Past

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Journal of Haitian Studies


In Écrire en pays assiégé: Haiti: Writing under Siege, Marie-Agnès Sourieau and Kathleen Balutansky propose that Haitian literature, perpetually engagée, has long served as "the locus for social criticism and activism under political oppression." (25) One of the major weapons that is wielded in these literary undertakings is the figure of Toussaint Louverture, who, the authors suggest, has operated "both as a founding myth for the nation and as a catharsis in the process of self-recognition." (26) Although Toussaint indisputably plays a crucial part in the Haitian imaginary, and that of the Caribbean at large, I believe that the function he serves is not necessarily that of triggering or facilitating "catharsis," because the term connotes an effect which is excessively stable or static. On this question, Charles Forsdick concurs in a chapter of the recently published Echoes of the Haitian Revolution, "Arguing around Toussaint": "Far from being reduced to the status of a static historical figure, fixed through the processes of monumentalization, Toussaint has continued to trigger reflection on the colonial past and the postcolonial present - and this not least in Haiti [. . .]." (43) Indeed, some of the most recent literary representations of Toussaint are lively interrogations of both past and contemporary realities, stirring up fighting words and images - hardly releasing tensions or eliminating complexes, but rather exaggerating them and deliberately troubling the waters. These texts are works of war, lashing out against ignorance and oppression on all levels.


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