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Deborah Jenson, Professor of Romance Studies and Director Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies Co-Director of Undergraduate Studies (French) and Professor, French Studies; Acting Director of the Center for French & Francophone Studies

Deborah Jenson

My literary history of the Haitian Revolution, "Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution," was published with Liverpool UP in 2011. A co-edited volume with medical historians Warwick Anderson and Richard E. Keller, "Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties" is just out with Duke UP. With Michaeline Crichlow and Pat Northover, the special issue from our 2010 "States of Freedom: Freedom of States" conference in Kingston, Jamaica, will be published soon in "The Global South." An article on mirror neurons and literary bio-mimesis with neuropsychiatrist Marco Iacoboni will be out soon in "California Italian Studies." The Haiti Humanities Laboratory I co-direct with Laurent Dubois continues to generate collaborative projects with social and/or instrumental relevance, such as our "Haiti: History Embedded in Amber" artwork and catalog, and a forthcoming article and digital map on the history of Caribbean cholera in the CDC journal "Emerging Infectious Diseases."

Contact Info:
Office Location:  112 Languages Building
Email Address: send me a message

Teaching (Fall 2019):

    Languages 207, TuTh 11:45 AM-01:00 PM
    TBA, W 03:05 PM-05:35 PM
    (also cross-listed as LIT 540S.01)
Office Hours:

By appointment; please email

Ph.D. Harvard University1994
M.A.University of Paris (France)1985
B.A. Bowdoin College1983

French Studies
Caribbean Studies
Research Interests: French and Haitian Studies; Global Health; "Neurohumanities"

Current projects: Haitian Ethnopsychiatry, Trauma and Global Mental Health, Jean-Jacques Dessalines, Flaubert and Epilepsy, Literary Representations of the Brain

I take the broad mandate of the humanist very seriously. The overlapping problems of representation and imitation in "mimesis" are at the heart of my research and teaching, but the contexts in which I explore them are diverse. Trauma, as crisis in the continuity of internal representations of the real, reveals the complexity of mimetic experience. Historical transitions to new forms of representation, such as the adoption of the political proclamation by former slaves in the Haitian revolution, teach us to see literary conventions, or literacy itself, with new eyes. Neuroscientific exploration of "mirror neurons" raises the question of whether we form cognitive imitations of others' experience simply by observing their motor actions. In summary, my linguistic, literary, and historiographical skills can be directed to French literature, Haitian studies, trauma and global mental health, or "neurohumanities."


Caribbean Region • Cholera • Haiti • History, 19th Century • Humans • Poetry


Director Center for Latin American & Caribbean Studies, Director of Undergraduate Studies, Romance Studies; Co-Director, FHI Haiti Lab; Director, Duke in Paris Summer Program; Co-Convenor, DIBS/FHI Neurohumanities Research Group

Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Jenson, D, Neuroscience and the Poetics of the Haitian Declaration of Independence, edited by Gaffield, J (2014)
  2. Kadish, D; Jenson, D; Shapiro, TBN, Poetry of the Haitian Independence (2015), pp. 360 pages, Yale University Press (translated by Shapiro, N.) [ref=sr_1_1]  [abs]
  3. Jenson, D; Iacoboni, M, Literary Biomimesis: Mirror Neurons and the Ontological Priority of Representation, California Italian Studies (2011) [3sc3j6dj]
  4. Jenson, D; Szabo, V; Duke FHI Haiti Humanities Laboratory Student Research Team,, Cholera in Haiti and other Caribbean regions, 19th century., Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 17 no. 11 (November, 2011), pp. 2130-2135, Centers for Disease Control [22099117], [doi]  [abs]
  5. Deborah Jenson, Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution (2011; paperback 2012), pp. 322, Liverpool University Press
  6. Jenson, D, Kidnapped Narratives: Mobility without Autonomy and the Nation/Novel Analogy, in A Companion to Comparative Literature, edited by Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas (November, 2011), pp. 369-386, JOHN WILEY & SONS LTD [repository], [doi]
  7. Anderson, DJWW; Keller, RE, Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties (2011), pp. 328-328, Duke University Press
  8. Jenson, D, The common without copies, the international without cosmopolitanism: Marx against the romanticism of likeness, Rethinking Marxism, vol. 22 no. 3 (July, 2010), pp. 420-433, Informa UK Limited [repository], [doi]  [abs]
  9. Jenson, D, Hegel and Dessalines: Philosophy and the African Diaspora, New West Indian Guide, vol. 84 no. 3-4 (2010), pp. 4-9, ISSN 1382-2373 [repository]
  10. Jenson, D, Dessalines’s American Proclamations of the Haitian Independence, The Journal of Haitian Studies, vol. Vol. 15 no. No. 1 and 2 (2010), pp. 72-102 [repository]  [abs]
  11. Jenson, D, The Writing of Disaster in Haiti: Signifying Cataclysm from Slave Revolution to Earth Quake, in Haiti Rising, edited by Munro, M (2010), pp. 103-112, Liverpool University Press [publication.asp]
  12. Jenson, D; Kadish, D, Sarah, An English Translation (2008), MLA Editions
  13. Jenson, D, Francophone World Literature (Littérature-monde) Cosmopolitanism, and Decadence: ‘Citizen of the World’ without the Citizen?, in Transnational French Studies: Postcolonialism and Littérature-monde, edited by Hargreaves, A, vol. 1 (2010), pp. 15-35, Liverpool University Press [publication.asp]
  14. Jenson, D, Toussaint Louverture, Spin Doctor? Launching the Haitian Revolution in the French Media, in Tree of Liberty: Legacies of the Haitian Revolution in the Atlantic World (2008), pp. 41-62, University of Virginia Press
  15. Jenson, D, Before Malcolm X, Dessalines: A ‘French’ Tradition of Black Atlantic Radicalism, edited by Hargreaves, A; Mourra, J-M, International Journal of Francophone Studies, vol. 10 no. 3 (2007), pp. 329-342 [ijfs.10.3.329_1]
  16. Jenson, D, Fétichisme de la marchandise: la poésie des courtisanes noires ou de couleur à Saint-Domingue, in Relire l’histoire et la littérature haïtiennes, edited by Ndiaye, C (2007), pp. 27-56, Presses nationales d’Haïti
  17. Jenson, D, Myth, History, and Witnessing in Marceline Desbordes-Valmore’s Caribbean Poetics, edited by Paliyenko, A, L’Esprit Créateur, vol. 47 no. 4 (2007), pp. 329-343, ISSN 0014-0767 [html]
  18. Jenson, D, The Haiti Issue, Yale French Studies, vol. 107 (2005)
  19. Jenson, D, Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France (2001), pp. 294 pages, Johns Hopkins UP

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