1st Edition

Hacking Classical Forms in Haitian Literature

By Tom Hawkins Copyright 2024
    278 Pages 1 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    This is the first book to study how Haitian authors – from independence in 1804 to the modern Haitian diaspora – have adapted Greco-Roman material and harnessed it to Haiti’s legacy as the world’s first anti-colonial nation-state.

    In nine chronologically organized chapters built around individual Haitian authors, Hawkins takes readers on a journey through one strand of Haitian literary history that draws on material from ancient Greece and Rome. This cross-disciplinary exploration is composed in a way that invites all readers to discover a rich and exciting cultural exchange that foregrounds the variety of ways that Haitian authors have ‘hacked classical forms’ as part of their creative process. Students of ancient Mediterranean cultures will learn about a branch of the Greco-Roman legacy that has never been deeply explored. Experts in Caribbean culture will find a robust register of Haitian literature that will enrich familiar texts. And those interested in anti-colonial movements will encounter a host of examples of artists creatively engaging with literary monuments from the past in ways that always keep the Haitian experience in central focus.

    Written in a broadly accessible style, Hacking Classical Forms in Haitian Literature appeals to anyone interested in Haiti, Haitian literature and history, anti-colonial literature, or classical reception studies.

    Introduction; Historical Segue 1: 1804-1822: Saturn’s Children; 1. ‘We are all Greeks’: President Boyer’s Letter to Greek Revolutionaries (1822); 2. The ‘Lake of Lies’: Émeric Bergeaud’s Stella (1859); 3. On Haiti and Black Egypt: Anténor Firmin’s De l’Égalité des Races Humaines (1885); Historical Segue 2: From 19th c. Nationalism to 20th c. Populism; 4. A jumble of names: Fernand Hibbert’s Romulus (1908); 5. Cleopatras and Sapphos of the Haitian Countryside: Jean Price-Mars, Ansi Parla l’Oncle (1928); 6. Sophocles becomes a Haitian Writer: Félix Morisseau-Leroy, Antigòn en Creole (1953); Historical Segue 3: Duvalierism and the Haitian Diaspora; 7. Antigòn in West Africa: Morisseau-Leroy’s Wa Kreyon; 8. ‘As though Picasso were Tagging with Spraypaint’: Dany Laferrière’s Le cri des oiseaux fous; 9. Edwidge Danticat and the Revolt against Silence – with Julia Nelson Hawkins; Coda.


    Tom Hawkins, Associate Professor of Classics at Ohio State University (U.S.A), specializes in Greek literature and its legacies. He wrote Iambic Poetics in the Roman Empire, serves on the Advisory Board of Eos, and is the faculty mentor for Black Students in Classics.

    "The study of the past in the Caribbean and the Americas always needs new names and paradigms. In Hacking Classical Forms in Haitian Literature Tom Hawkins repurposes a verb with supple historical resonances, from the harvesting of sugar cane on colonial plantations to renegade computer programming and other acts of deliberate interference with established systems. In this case, the system is the classical tradition of ancient Greece and Rome as imagined by modern European empires and shipped to the Caribbean, where it was hacked by Haitian writers and artists who repurposed the Greek and Roman classics in the expression of an anti-colonial modernity. A brilliant work of cultural criticism, Hacking Classical Forms is a milestone in the study of Black classicisms and an important contribution to Caribbean Studies."

    Emily Greenwood, Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature, Harvard University; author of Afro-Greeks: Dialogues Between Anglophone Caribbean Literature and Classics in the Twentieth Century