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Title: Cryptic secrets : phantoms of the Haitian Revolution in the American imaginary
Author: Willson, Nicole
ISNI:       0000 0004 5916 0658
Awarding Body: University of East Anglia
Current Institution: University of East Anglia
Date of Award: 2016
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This thesis explores the Haitian Revolution and its multiple assaults upon the American imaginary. These assaults are understood to form part of a traumatic cultural inheritance. It envisages the Haitian Revolution not as one, singular event, but as a complex, multivalent, and polymorphous phenomenon, with a circular, repeating energy. This ‘circular’ revolution is shown to resonate with different ‘American’ anxieties—anxieties regarding race, class, gender, sexuality, creolization, nationhood, and diaspora. Drawing upon Abraham and Torok’s theory of cryptonymy and the ‘transgenerational phantom’, this thesis traces the roots of these revolutionary traumas (or ‘phantoms’) and uncovers the ‘encrypted’ secrets that underlie the multiple layers of myth, obfuscation, and silence that characterize American representations of Haiti—secrets which reflect both the limits of Haiti’s continual revolutionary power, and the transgenerational force of American cultural anxiety. Using the American gothic tradition as a discursive springboard, this thesis sees fiction, and the creative arts more broadly, as an archive of creative possibilities. Examining a range of gothic ‘texts’ from the 1790s to the 1930s, including Herman Melville’s ‘Benito Cereno’, William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, Charles Brockden Brown’s Arthur Mervyn, George Washington Cable’s The Grandissimes, and the Halperin brothers’ film White Zombie, it demonstrates the endurance of particular social, political, and cultural anxieties that are often occluded by the conventional American archive. In this sense, it responds to the concerns of Haiti scholars such as Michel-Rolph Trouillot, who have highlighted the limitations of the western archive, and confronts the need to read ‘beyond’ the text, using an assemblage of other sources that may offer clues into ‘encrypted’ histories. In so doing, it does not propose to offer a solution to Haiti’s historical erasure, but demonstrates the unimagined revolutionary possibilities of creative interdisciplinarity.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available