New JTO: Makandal

This is making the rounds on the listservs, but we wanted to share in case anyone hasn’t seen it. It is the time for syllabus planning after all.  

Dear Colleagues,

We hope that this email finds you well.  As you think about your spring courses, we invite you to join the Just Teach One project for the upcoming semester.  JTO’s aim is to locate and address questions about canonicity and recovery in our classrooms, by asking scholars across the country to teach editions of neglected texts, and then to write brief blog posts about their experiences. These reflections become part of a permanent webpage hosted by the American Antiquarian society:

Our new text for the Spring of 2016 is titled “Account of a remarkable Conspiracy formed by a Negro in the Island of St. Domingo.” This work–essentially a short story–first appeared in the important French journal, the Mercure de France, in 1787, with the title “Makandal, a true story.”  It was widely reprinted in Britain, with some changes made in characterization and context, and in the 1790s it began appearing in an array of US magazines and newspapers. The text gives the history of Francois Makandal, a prominent maroon leader in Saint-Domingue in the 1750s.  He was accused by the French colonial authorities of poisoning thousands of slave-owners and slaves, and was captured and burned alive in 1758.  The reprintings of the 1790s coincide with regular reportage of events from Saint-Domingue and a growing discussion of slavery. The text is short–just over 4,200 words–and is introduced and annotated with details exploring the differences between French and English editions. It is a remarkable text, and we believe it opens up a range of topics for classroom consideration, including: issues related to circum-Atlantic rebellions by enslaved people, questions about diasporic African religious and medical practices, and the early US fascination with issues related to Saint-Domingue.

We hope that you might be able to fit “Makandal” in your spring syllabus, and that you would be willing to send us a blog post about your teaching experience. Blog posts are typically brief statements (500-1000 words) about how the inclusion of this text altered the conversations, aims, and orientations of your course, for better or for worse.  None of what we have been doing so far would be possible without the generosity of colleagues willing to take the plunge and try out a new text in their classrooms. We hope you’ll consider participating.

Over the course of last four years dozens of colleagues from across the country taught one of our earlier editions: Amelia; or the Faithless Briton (1789), The Story of Constantius and Pulchera (1789); Humanity in Algiers (1801); Sarah Savage’s The Factory Girl (1814); St. Herbert – A Tale (1796); and the November, 1786 issue of the Columbia Magazine. At some point in the next few weeks we will upload 12 more posts about our Fall 2015 text, Susanna Rowson’s novel Sincerity; a Novel in a Series of Original Letters (1803-1804). Free editions of all these texts and the accompanying blog posts by teachers can be accessed on our website, and we hope that you might also consider teaching one of these earlier texts and adding to our blogging repository.

Thanks again for your consideration, and we look forward to hearing from you soon.

Duncan Faherty & Ed White​


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