Subject to Adaptation: Race and French Atlantic Narratives (Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries)
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Sago, Kylie Louise
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CitationSago, Kylie Louise. 2021. Subject to Adaptation: Race and French Atlantic Narratives (Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries). Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.
Abstract“Subject to Adaptation: Race and French Atlantic Narratives (Eighteenth & Nineteenth Centuries)” considers literature’s role in shaping understandings of “race.” I trace how representations of Blackness in particular shift across a corpus of texts that were repeatedly rewritten after their initial publication, translated by different authors into new genres (from poetry to novels) and media (from fashion to theater). “Subject to Adaptation” builds on insights from adaptation studies and critical race studies, as well as postcolonial studies’ attention to rewriting as a strategy to draw out latent colonial themes in canonical literary texts. I propose that we consider adaptation not as a response to empire after the fact, but as a means of its representation in the present tense (both in periods contemporary to colonialism and in present-day negotiations of the legacies of empire). Through chapters focusing on different modes of adaptation (reframing, remediation, intertextuality, and rereading), “Subject to Adaptation” foregrounds literature’s contributions to evolving understandings of racial difference. Adaptations, I argue, ultimately reveal how race was constructed through a continual process of textual revision and reinterpretation.
The first chapter shows that the rewritten frame narratives of the earliest versions of “La Belle et la Bête” (Villeneuve, 1740; Leprince de Beaumont, 1756) determine how explicitly the fairy tale’s lessons on appearance applied to racial difference. The chapter closes by considering the fairy tale’s origins in the myth of Cupid and Psyche, with attention to the racial transformations depicted in La Fontaine’s Les Amours de Psyché et de Cupidon (1669). In the second chapter, I demonstrate that the unauthorized remediations of Duras’s novella Ourika (1823) in theater and fashion fundamentally change the story told about the social ostracism and death of the first Black female protagonist in French literature. The third chapter examines intertextual strategies in works of abolitionist fiction: translation in La Place’s Oronoko (1745), revision in Staël’s Mirza (1795), and citation in Doin’s La Famille noire (1825). As abolitionist authors revised Black protagonists of previous texts, they articulated different appeals to readers and visions for the role of literature in antislavery politics. The fourth and final chapter inscribes colonial-era adaptations in a longer history of postcolonial rewritings. I show that Condé’s La migration des cœurs (1995) offers a rereading of Hugo’s Bug-Jargal (1826) and Flaubert’s Salammbô (1862); the resulting entanglement of political history, family genealogy, and literary influence sheds light on Condé’s depictions of racial politics in Guadeloupe at the turn of the twentieth century.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37368368
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