Asynchronous Assignment (due on 5/4 before the class)
1. In the comment section down below, answer ONE of these questions (200-words minimum):
Discuss the ways Manzano achieves his dream of literacy and poetic rebellion.
Elaborate on how Manzano values her deceased mother’s spiritual well-being at all costs. How the death of his mother amplify his rebelliousness?
In the last poem, Juan Francisco Manzano conveys the notion of a collectivity (concrete and abstract) praying for him, singing, and wishing him well in his escape from La Marquesa’s plantation. Expand on Manzano’s vision. How his escape represents a form of historical awareness?
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about The Poet Slave of Cuba (pages 129-172) do you want to bring into the discussion?
In this third section of the poetry collection, The Poet Slave of Cuba, Margarita Engle goes deeper into the traumatic relationship between La Condesa del Prado Ameno and the young Juan Francisco Manzano. The reader learns about the constant punishment Juan barely endures and how this almost daily torture tries to suffocate Juan’s literary inclinations and his will. It could be argued that the extreme acts against Juan are looking to kill him or at least slowly destroy his body and mind.
However, Engle also focuses on Juan’s deep reflections, spirituality, and poetic views.
What ideas and images stand out from his description of la zafra, the sugarcane harvest? (Pages 87-9)
Oral Presentation on the poetry book The Poet Slave of Cuba (Pages 87-129).
Asynchronous Assignment (due on 4/27 before class)
1. In the comment section down below, answer ONE of these questions (200-words minimum):
Discuss all the distinct ways the young Manzano keeps “writing” verses and “reading” poetry even though the Marquesa del Prado Ameno punishes any literacy activity. Refer to specific poems and/or scenes from this section.
Explore Manzano’s complex spiritual views and how they help him to cope with the punishments and torture imposed by the Marquesa del Padro Ameno. Refer to specific poems and/or scenes from this section.
What does Don Nicolas means when he says that the Marquesa del Prado Ameno has a mind “that needs light.” Describe how Don Nicolas, Manzano’s mother, María del Pilar, and the girls at the kitchen offer him consolation and solace.
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about The Poet Slave of Cuba (pages 44-86) do you want to bring into the discussion?
Considering that most enslaved people in the Americas were prohibited to read and write, do you think that literacy and poetry could be conceived as tools of resistance against slavery and colonialism? Why?
Cuba’s Historical Context after the Haitian Revolution
Why after the Haitian revolution, Cuban elites expanded the slave trade and thus increased the enslaved population during the nineteenth century? (Minutes 0:00-6:30)
The Poet Slave of Cuba: A Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano
In this poetry collection prolific poet and writer of Cuban descent, Margarita Engle re-contextualizes the 19th-century Autobiography of a Slave by Juan Francisco Manzano, the only known testimony of slavery written in the Spanish-speaking Americas. Although Manzano’s book is written as a first-person account, Engle uses different perspectives and the voices of his family members, collaborators, and tormentors to retell his afflicted but genius life. Engle frames poetry as an art form that allows Manzano’s transformation from a docile child slave into a self-emancipated abolitionist.
Oral Presentation on the poetry book The Poet Slave of Cuba (Pages 1-43)
1. Watch the documentary Egalité for All: Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution
2. In the comment section down below, answer ONE of these questions (200-words minimum):
In which way the violence against French colonists and enslavers in the early and last stages of the revolution was a response to the conditions of slavery in the plantations and to colonial rule? (Suggested minutes: 15:20-23:23; 47:02-52:00)
Discuss the major role of Toussaint Louverture in the revolution (Suggested minutes: 9:20-11:08; 20:42-22:30; 23:26-29:00; 31:15-33:20; 36:15-41:15)
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about Egalité for All do you want to bring to the discussion?
In the comment section down below write a response (225-words minimum) to ONE of these prompts (due on 4/13):
Give your explanation of and expand on the following quote by Trouillot:
Claims about the fundamental uniqueness of humankind, claims about the ethical irrelevance of racial categories of geographical situation to matters of governance and, certainly, claims about the right of all peoples to self-determination went against received wisdom in the Atlantic world and beyond. Each could reveal itself in Saint-Domingue only through practice. By necessity, the Haitian Revolution thought itself out politically and philosophically as it was taking place. (Pages 88-89)
Why the public opinion in France (and even in Saint Domingue) rejected and/or doubted the news of the massive uprising? What Trouillot means by interested parties engaging in a game of hide-and-seek with the news coming out from Saint Domingue? (Pages 90-92)
Trouillot analyses how international recognition of the revolutionary victories of Toussaint Louverture and later on of the major achievement of Haitian independence was extremely difficult to gain. Explain why? (Pages 93-95)
Respectfully interactwith ONE of your classmates’ responses. Do you agree with their points and interpretations? Do you disagree? What other observations about “An Unthinkable History” do you want to bring to the discussion?
Can you think of a current social issue to which there seems to be no solution, that is, it is extremely hard to conceive a world otherwise, beyond it?
“[In Silencing the Past] Trouillot suggested that the Haitian Revolution was (and in many ways remains) an “unthinkable” event: that the idea of enslaved populations rising up and not only resisting slavery but also achieving self-determination and forging entirely new conceptual categories of freedom and equality was beyond the grasp of both observers and participants. ”
There were doubts at times. But the planters’ practical precautions aimed at stemming individual actions or, at worst, a sudden riot. No one in Saint-Domingue or elsewhere worked out a plan of response to a general insurrection.
Although by no means monolithic, this worldview was widely shared by whites in Europe and the Americas and by many non-white plantation owners as well. Although it left room for variations, none of these variations included the possibility of a revolutionary uprising in the slave plantations, let alone a successful one leading to the creation of an independent state. (73)
The Haitian Revolution did challenge the ontological and political assumptions of the most radical writers of the Enlightenment. The events that shook up Saint-Domingue from 1791 to 1804 constituted a sequence for which not even the extreme political left in France or in England had a conceptual frame of reference. They were “unthinkable” facts in the framework of Western thought. (82)
Oral presentation on “An Unthinkable History” (Pages 70-88)
What is your understanding of these key concepts discussed by Trouillot: the west; Man; black; abolition and resistance?
The West was created somewhere at the beginning of the sixteenth century in the midst of a global wave of material and symbolic transformations. The definitive expulsion of the Muslims from Europe, the so-called voyages of exploration, the first developments of merchant colonialism, and the maturation of the absolutist state set the stage for the rulers and merchants of Western Christendom to conquer Europe and the rest of the world…
These political developments paralleled the emergence of a new symbolic order. (74)
What is Man?
Philosophers who discussed that last issue could not escape the fact that colonization was going on as they spoke. Men (Europeans) were conquering, killing, dominating, and enslaving other beings thought to be equally human, if only by some. (75)
In the horizon of the West at the end of the century, Man (with a capital M) was primarily European and male. On this single point everyone who mattered agreed… westernized (or more properly, “westernizable”) humans, natives of Africa or of the Americas, were at the lowest level of this nomenclature. (76)
The lexical opposition Man-versus-Native (or Man- versus-Negro) tinted the European literature on the Americas from 1492 to the Haitian Revolution and beyond. (82)
By the middle of the eighteenth century, “black” was almost universally bad. What had happened in the meantime, was the expansion of African-American slavery… Blacks were inferior and therefore enslaved; black slaves behaved badly and were therefore inferior. In short, the practice of slavery in the Americas secured the blacks’ position at the bottom of the human world. With the place of blacks now guaranteed at the bottom of the Western nomenclature, anti-black racism soon became the central element of planter ideology in the Caribbean. (77)
The Enlightenment, nevertheless, brought a change of perspective. The idea of progress, now confirmed, suggested that men were perfectible. Therefore, subhumans could be, theoretically at least, perfectible. More important, the slave trade was running its course, and the economics of slavery would be questioned increasingly as the century neared its end. Perfectibility became an argument in the practical debate: the westernized other looked increasingly more profitable to the West, especially if he could become a free laborer. (80)
Behind the radicalism, of Diderot and Raynal stood, ultimately, a project of colonial management. It did indeed include the abolition of slavery, but only in the long term, and as part of a process that aimed at the better control of the colonies. Access to human status did not lead ipso facto to self-determination. (81)
The sole sustained campaign of the self-proclaimed Friends of the Blacks was their effort to guarantee the civil and political rights of free mulatto owners. (87)
Resistance did not exist as a global phenomenon. Rather, each case of unmistakable defiance, each possible instance of resistance was treated separately and drained of its political content. (83)
Built into any system of domination is the tendency to proclaim its own normalcy. To acknowledge resistance as a mass phenomenon is to acknowledge the possibility that something is wrong with the system. Caribbean planters, much as their counterparts in Brazil and in the United States, systematically rejected that ideological concession, and their arguments in defense of slavery were central to the development of scientific racism. (84)
The evocation of a slave rebellion was primarily a rhetorical device. The concrete possibility of such a rebellion flourishing into a revolution and a modern black state was still part of the unthinkable. (85)