Contribution to Book
A Companion to American Literature, Volume 1
Theresa Strouth Gaul
Hoboken, New Jersey
This essay reviews recent scholarship about Haiti and the early United States to situate the study of the Haitian Revolution in U.S. literary studies. I next turn to Leonora Sansay’s Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo (1808), the first American novel to focus on events in pre-independent Haiti. Despite Sansay’s considerable attention to social life at Cape Français, I will argue that domestic politics, especially surrounding the trial of Aaron Burr for treason, best illuminate the imaginary function of Haiti for early Americans. Finally, I will briefly look at further resonances of the Haitian Revolution in American culture. I will demonstrate that confusion and misinformation about Haiti have had lasting effects that cannot be dismissed once factually corrected by historiography. Not only were early Americans looking through a distorted lens at current events in the Caribbean basin, but they were also, perhaps primarily, looking not abroad, but at themselves. -- Michael Drexler, chapter author
Drexler, Michael, "Haiti and the Early American Imagination" (2020). Faculty Contributions to Books. 221.