The secret beyond white patriarchal power: Race, gender, and freedom in the last days of colonial Saint-Domingue

Research output: Contribution to journalReview article

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Abstract

This essay locates Leonora Sansay's novel Secret History; or, The Horrors of St. Domingo in the circum-Atlantic discussions on race and colonial insurgency during the Napoleonic period. Sansay critiques white Creole society and French colonial domination through the violence suffered by Clara, a seductive American woman, whose liaison with a metropolitan French general unleashed the rage of her rich planter husband. In a society in which the power relations of slavery dominate, Clara's "vilely bartered" marriage suggests parallels between the enslavement of blacks and women's bondage in matrimony. But Sansay denies this analogy. Instead, and especially after the black victory, she represents the freedom of white women as conditional on their obligation to refuse the "horrors" of miscegenation. In this way the novel contributes to the growing negrophobia of the era by introducing fears of black patriarchal power as a path to rejecting black sovereign political power.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)387-416
Number of pages30
JournalFrench Historical Studies
Volume33
Issue number3
DOIs
StatePublished - Jun 1 2010

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History

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