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Daniel Desormeaux

DANIEL DESORMEAUX, Ph.D., is the William D. and Robin Mayer Professor of Arts and Sciences. Prior to his appointment at Johns Hopkins in 2019, Daniel Desormeaux held tenured positions at the University of Chicago and the University of Kentucky, which he joined after beginning his teaching career at Dartmouth College.

As a scholar in French who is tapping into the Caribbean cultural archipelago he was raised in, Daniel Desormeaux works as a comparatist primarily on French and Francophone literatures and cultures of the long nineteenth century. His versatile research agenda addresses a range of global issues and texts, in particular the historical and anthropological link between French and Caribbean literature and culture after the Haitian Revolution.

Professor Desormeaux’s first book, La Figure du bibliomane: histoire du livre et stratégie littéraire au XIXe 19e siècle (Nizet, 2001) dealt with the history of rare-book collection in the nineteenth century. Collecting was not only a legitimate intellectual occupation but also the front line of defense in the battle against the cultural amnesia provoked by the French Revolution of 1789. The book analyses the rise of bibliomania as a well-accepted tradition within cultural institutions from the early 19th century to the beginning of the twentieth. A second monograph, Alexandre Dumas, fabrique d’immortalité (Classiques Garnier 2014), examines the many ways Dumas both embraces and displaces the borders of archival discourse, the popular novel, collections, history, and memoirs. It explores the literary and artistic strategies that Dumas used in his infinite quest for eternal recognition and success as a writer.

Professor Desormeaux has played a key role in disseminating crucial historical and literary documents in Haitian thought and letters. His critical edition of the Mémoires du général Toussaint Louverture (Classiques Garnier, 2011), should be understood as a secret bibliophilic effort to exhume long-lost documents from the colonial archives and to bring into view the global implications of 19th-century Haitian political thought and its contrasting legacies.

More broadly, Daniel Desormeaux is interested in transatlantic history of ideas, comparative analysis of history and literature, the development of new Francophone cultural institutions in the 19th century, eyewitness accounts of the Haitian Revolution, slavery in Haiti, literature and spirituality (voodoo). He is the editor of a special issue on Race and Literature: 1848-1917. Journal Nineteenth Century French Studies 50.3–4, Spring-Summer 2022. He also finished a small book manuscript on the French colonial plantation. Currently, he is completing a collection of essays on contemporary French Caribbean novelists, as well as a book-length essay on Haitian history.