F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Research Project Proposal: A Timeline of the Depiction of Louisiana Creole Women in Literature and the Events That Follow

I am interested in the depiction of Louisiana creole women in American literature. Through my research, scholarship on Louisiana creole women in literature is seriously lacking. I think Louisiana creole women have a place in the canon, specifically, in the digital humanities. Therefore, an authentic critical assessment of the depiction of Louisiana creole women is needed. I propose to examine how writers--white, black, or mixed-raced---depict Louisiana creole women in American literature. From there, I plan to situate these texts through a timeline of historical events and legislation in nineteenth-century Louisiana. I plan to use Timeline JS for my digital project. This tool will enable me to create an interactive timeline that will display published text, historical events, and legislation in nineteenth-century Louisiana.

 When thinking of Louisiana Creole women in the nineteenth century, I think about miscegenation, plaçage, and tignon laws. More specifically, I think about miscegenation that ties Louisiana creole literature together. For instance, George Washington Cable’s Madame Delphine perpetuates notions of nineteenth-century racial ideologies and the objectification of women of color. This text also deals with racial hierarchies and how creole women's racial ambiguity situates itself in this hierarchy. With this in mind, I plan to see how racial hierarchies and gender expectations for women weaves itself in other Louisiana creole text.
Louisiana Creoles “includes descendants of the early French and Spanish settlers, both white and black” (Morlas 9). There are white creoles, but I intend to focus on women of color.  In the early years of the French Colony, creole meant anyone born in the New World. Though these terms are not interchangeable, I plan to use both meanings. Also, some creoles were born free while others were not; this is also important to consider. I want to specifically focus on Louisiana creole women of color rather than white creole women.

One of the first texts I will focus on would be Victor Séjour’s Le Mulâtre (1837). This short story takes place in Haiti before the revolution. Notably, many Louisiana creoles are descendent of Haitians who came over to Louisiana during the Haitian Revolution. In this short story, Séjour shows an enslaved woman objectified for her youth, skin color, and beauty. Laïsa represents the foremother of the Louisiana Creole Woman; she is an enslaved Senegalese woman who is raped by a white French man and produces a mixed-raced child, Georges. Georges’ wife, Zélie, is a depiction of the mulatta Haitian woman. She is executed after she defends herself from being raped by Georges’ father. Georges seeks revenge and murders his father, symbolizing a slave revolt. Additionally, I found a historical document on a potential slave revolt that happens the year of this text’s publication. The leaders of this possible slave revolt were eventually lynched.

The first entry into the timeline shows the issues of slavery, rape, and miscegenation. The real-life event (the possible slave revolt) further puts into perspective the meaning of this novel.  Thus, showing my interest in developing an analytical argument for creole women’s depiction in creole literature. Through a timeline, users see the impact of the culture, historical events, and legislation on the literary imagination of authors of creole works. Furthermore, this topic can be developed into a larger research project, teaching tool, or public resource—specifically, a teaching tool to show the significance of creole women in the literary canon.


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