Edward Said’s Orientalism is considered by many to be a landmark cultural text that provided much of the basis for what came to be known as post-colonial theory. The book’s central thesis invited many literary scholars to look back on the broad expanse of western literature and consider if there were legitimate “countertexts” that either spoke out directly against the European colonial mindset or represented a marginalized viewpoint. One such possible text is a little-known proletarian novel by Guy Endore entitled Babouk, published in 1934. The novel, which takes place during the Haitian slave revolution of the late 18th century, is notable for its far-left anti-slavery and anti-capitalist sympathies. This project discusses the possible role Babouk could play in an alternative canon by using Said’s own writings to interrogate Endore’s text. Ultimately, Babouk fails as a countertext, despite its anti-racist intent, because it does not fulfill Said’s criteria of providing a legitimate voice for the disenfranchised. Instead, it uses the character of Babouk and the other slaves as a means of making specific political points regarding the relationship between European trade practices and American Jim Crow laws.
Nathan Sacks, ’09 Ames, IA
Majors: English, Secondary Education
Sponsor: Shannon Reed