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Deborah Jenson, Professor

Deborah Jenson

I am a scholar of "long 19th century" in French and Caribbean literature and culture, cognitive literary studies, health humanities, and global health. Running through all my research, teaching, and outreach is the problem of representation and mimesis, on axes from social contagion to rhetoric to mirror neurons. Here are some ways to think about my work:

  • Research: articles on Sylvia Wynter and Global South Philosophy in PMLA, "Creole" poetry by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (Cahiers Marceline Desbordes-Valmore), and a co-authored study on qualitative representations of epilepsy in Epilepsy and Behavior. Forthcoming work on Haitian psychiatrist Louis Mars in Black Psychology, and a co-edited research topic with Marco Iacoboni and Len White on Representation in Neuroscience and Humanities in Frontiers. Monographs, edited volumes, editions, and translations include: Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution; Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France; Poetry of Haitian Independence (with D. Kadish and N. Shapiro); Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignty (with W. Anderson and R. Keller); Sarah, A Colonial Novella (with D. Kadish); and "Coming to Writing" and Other Essays by Hélène Cixous.
  • Public humanities: co-founder and co-director of the Haiti Lab (2010-2013), founder and co-director of the Health Humanities Lab (2015-2020), and co-founder and co-director of the Neurohumanities Research Group (2013-) at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.
  • Pedagogy: my teaching builds on the interdisciplinary nature of my work, from "Flaubert's Brain: Neurohumanities," "Pandemic Humanities: Reimagining Health and Medicine in Romance Studies," and "Trauma and Global Health," to "Mimesis in Theory and Practice," "Global Humanities in French," and "Sylvia Wynter, Frantz Fanon, and Caribbean Philosophy Writ Large."
  • Administrative leadership: from directing the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and co-directing the Brain & Society theme of Bass Connections, to P.I.ship of grants including the Mellon "Humanities Futures" grant at FHI, and co P.I.ship with Ed Balleisen of the NEH Next Generation "Versatile Humanists" grant.
  • For a profile of one of my remarkable undergraduate students in French, see this feature on Marshall Scholar Julie Uchitel: https://today.duke.edu/2022/05/duke-alumna-awarded-knight-hennessy-scholarship.

Contact Info:
Office Location:  112 Language Center, Box 90257, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708
Email Address: send me a message

Teaching (Fall 2022):

  • FRENCH 89S-1.01, FIRST-YEAR SEMINAR IN FRENCH Synopsis
    Perkins 065, MW 03:30 PM-04:45 PM
    (also cross-listed as GLHLTH 89S.01)
  • LIT 390S.03, SPECIAL TOPICS IN LITERATURE Synopsis
    Social Sciences 119, MW 12:00 PM-01:15 PM
    (also cross-listed as GLHLTH 390S.01, ROMST 390S.01)
Teaching (Spring 2023):

  • HOUSECS 59.17, HOUSE COURSE (SP TOP) Synopsis
    Keohane 4D 201 SEM, M 07:00 PM-08:30 PM
  • FRENCH 371S.01, HAITI TO NEW ORLEANS Synopsis
    Perkins 088, TuTh 03:30 PM-04:45 PM
  • ROMST 580S.01, CARIBBEAN PHILOSOPHY Synopsis
    Reuben-Coo 129, W 12:00 PM-02:30 PM
    (also cross-listed as AAAS 581S.01, LIT 581S.01)
Office Hours:

Tuesday1:30-4 pm or by appointment
Education:

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

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."

Keywords:

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

Duties:

Secondary Appointment, Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) Graduate Faculty, Women's Studies Faculty Affiliate, the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS) Co-Director, Haiti Lab Co-Director, Brain & Society, Bass Connections Co-Director, Duke Neurohumanities in Paris Co-Convener, Neurohumanities Research Group

Representative Publications   (More Publications)

  1. Jenson, D, Living by Metaphor in the Haitian Revolution: Tigers and Cognitive Theory, edited by Gaffield, J (2016), University of Virginia Press
  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 (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, 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, 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
Conferences Organized

  • Director : 3rd Annual Romance Studies Undergraduate Research Conference. March 2013, Director : 3rd Annual Romance Studies Undergraduate Research Conference, March, 2013  
  • Selection Committee, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Conference. December 17, 2012, Selection Committee, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Conference, December 2012  
  • Orgaanizer : 'Old' Worlds, 'New' Worlds, Future Worlds Romance Studies Undergraduate Research Conference. March 2012, Orgaanizer : 'Old' Worlds, 'New' Worlds, Future Worlds Romance Studies Undergraduate Research Conference, March, 2012  
  • Selection Committee, NIneteenth-Century French Studies Conference. 2011, Selection Committee, NIneteenth-Century French Studies Conference, 2011  
  • Co-Organizer : Haiti Lab Workshop, "Unveiling the Colonial System": The Baron de Vastey and the Henry Christophe Regime. December 2011, Co-Organizer : Haiti Lab Workshop, "Unveiling the Colonial System": The Baron de Vastey and the Henry Christophe Regime, December, 2011  
  • PFIRST Workshop, "Discourses of Trauma in Haiti" (Co-Organizer). November 2011, PFIRST Workshop, "Discourses of Trauma in Haiti" (Co-Organizer), November, 2011  
  • Co-Organizer (with Michaeline Crichlow (Duke, Sociology and AAAS, Patricia Northover (UWI, SALISES), Matthew Smith (UWI, History, Faculty of the Human, Co-Organizer (with Michaeline Crichlow (Duke, Sociology and AAAS, Patricia Northover (UWI, SALISES), Matthew Smith (UWI, History, Faculty of the Human, June 18-19, 2010  

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