The F/Utility of Care: Haitian Literature and the Practice of Mourning
Dize, Nathan H.
This dissertation examines how Haitian writers record memories of deceased family members, friends, and public figures in literature. In the years following the Haitian Revolution (1791–1804), memoirs, poetry, and historical texts served as epitaphs that commemorated the lives of those who had fought for emancipation and independence from France. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, this commemorative literary tradition took on an increasingly intimate frame because writers started to use literature as a way to immortalize the lives and literary careers of their loved ones. When archived at home and abroad in novels, poetry, magazines, newspapers, theatrical works, and websites, the memories of the dead become even harder for a colonial power, a military occupation, or a dictatorship to obliterate. My dissertation explores not only the acts of commemoration performed by various Haitian writers from 1929 to 2020, but also the risks and rewards of this collective Haitian literary practice. Ultimately, I argue that the practice of mourning is an essential element of Haitian literature because it repurposes the cherished memories of writers and public intellectuals to sustain kinship ties in Haiti and throughout the Haitian diaspora.