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Deborah Jenson, Professor of Romance Studies and Global Health and Director, Franklin Humanities Institute

Deborah Jenson

My most recent books are a literary history of the Haitian Revolution, "Beyond the Slave Narrative" (Liverpool UP 2011, paperback 2012, ebook 2013) and a volume on the global legacies of psychoanalysis: "Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties" (with Warwick Anderson and Richard Keller, Duke UP 2011). An anthology of the poetry of Haitian Independence, co-edited with Doris Kadish and translated by Norman Shapiro, is in production at Yale UP. I am co-authoring a book (under contract) with Brandon Kohrt, Bonnie Kaiser, and Hunter Keys on trauma and global mental health in Haiti. With Michaeline Crichlow and Pat Northover, I co-edited the "States of Freedom, Freedom of States" special issue of The Global South. Earlier work includes "Trauma and Its Representations" (Johns Hopkins UP 2001), "Sarah (A Colonial Novella" (with Kadish, MLA 2008) and "The Haiti Issue" of Yale French Studies (2005). I am finalizing a monograph, "Mimesis: from Marx to Mirror Neurons," and another book, "From 'Flaubert's Brain' to Firmin's 'Area': Global Approaches to Modern Literary Cognition." I co-direct the "Brain & Society" theme of Bass Connections, and co-direct the Duke Neurohumanities in Paris global education program. Secondary Appointment: Duke Global Health Institute (DGHI) Faculty Affiliate: Duke Institute for Brain Sciences (DIBS)

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

Teaching (Fall 2015):

    Smith Wrhs 177, TuTh 03:05 PM-04:20 PM
    (also cross-listed as ROMST 220.01)

PhDHarvard University1994

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."


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. Deborah Jenson, Neuroscience and the Poetics of the Haitian Declaration of Independence, edited by Julia Gaffield (Accepted, 2015)
  2. Doris Kadish and Deborah Jenson, translated by Normal Shapiro, Poetry of the Haitian Independence (forthcoming, 2014), Yale University Press
  3. Deborah Jenson, Marco Iacoboni, Literary Biomimesis: Mirror Neurons and the Ontological Priority of Representation, California Italian Studies (2011) [3sc3j6dj]
  4. D. Jenson, V. Szabo, and the Haiti Lab Student Research Team, Cholera in Haiti and Other Caribbean Regions, 19th Century, Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 17 no. 11 (November, 2011), pp. 6, Centers for Disease Control [eid1711.110958]
  5. Deborah Jenson, Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution (2011; paperback 2012), pp. 322, Liverpool University Press
  6. Deborah Jenson (with Warwick Anderson and Richard E. Keller), Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignties (2011), pp. 328, Duke University Press
  7. Deborah Jenson, Kidnapped narratives: Mobility without Autonomy and the Nation/Novel Analogy, in A Companion to Comparative Literature, edited by Ali Behdad and Dominic Thomas (2011), Blackwell Press
  8. Deborah Jenson, The Common Without Copies, the International Without Cosmopolitanism: Marx Against the Romanticism of Likeness, Rethinking Marxism, vol. 22 no. 3 (2010), pp. 420-433
  9. Deborah Jenson, Hegel and Dessalines: Philosophy and the African Diaspora, New West Indian Guide, vol. 84 no. 3 & 4 (2010), pp. 4-9
  10. Deborah Jenson, 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  [abs]
  11. Deborah Jenson, The Writing of Disaster in Haiti: Signifying Cataclysm from Slave Revolution to Earth Quake, in Haiti Rising, edited by Martin Munro (2010), pp. 103-112, Liverpool University Press [publication.asp]
  12. Deborah Jenson and Doris Kadish, Sarah, An English Translation (2008), MLA Editions
  13. Deborah Jenson, 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 Alec Hargreaves (2010), pp. 15-35, Liverpool University Press [publication.asp]
  14. Deborah Jenson, 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. Deborah Jenson, Before Malcolm X, Dessalines: A ‘French’ Tradition of Black Atlantic Radicalism, edited by Alec Hargreaves and Jean-Marc Mourra, International Journal of Francophone Studies, vol. 10 no. 3 (2007), pp. 329-342 [ijfs.10.3.329_1]
  16. Deborah Jenson, 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 Christiane Ndiaye (2007), pp. 27-56, Presses nationales d'Haïti
  17. Deborah Jenson, Myth, History, and Witnessing in Marceline Desbordes-Valmore’s Caribbean Poetics, edited by Adrianna Paliyenko, L'Esprit Créateur, vol. 47 no. 4 (2007), pp. 329-343 [html]
  18. Deborah Jenson, The Haiti Issue, Yale French Studies, vol. 107 (2005)
  19. Deborah Jenson, Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France (2001), pp. 294, Johns Hopkins UP
Conferences Organized

  • 3rd Annual Romance Studies Undergraduate Research Conference, Director, March, 2013  
  • Selection Committee, Nineteenth-Century French Studies Conference, December 2012  
  • "'Old' Worlds, 'New' Worlds, Future Worlds" Romance Studies Undergraduate Research Conference, Orgaanizer, March, 2012  
  • Selection Committee, NIneteenth-Century French Studies Conference, 2011  
  • Haiti Lab Workshop, "Unveiling the Colonial System": The Baron de Vastey and the Henry Christophe Regime, Co-Organizer, December, 2011  
  • PFIRST Workshop, "Discourses of Trauma in Haiti" (Co-Organizer), November, 2011  
  • States of Freedom, Freedom of States, 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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