The Original French Text

  • Author: Marceline Desbordes-Valmore
  • Editors: Deborah Jenson, Doris Y. Kadish
  • Pages: xxxvii & 93 pp.
  • Published: 2008
  • ISBN: 9781603290265 (Paperback)
Sarah Cover
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“This edition of Sarah promises not only to expand the place of women’s writing in the colonial archive but also to help bridge the gap between nineteenth- and twentieth-century francophone studies of slavery while promoting the integration of French and francophone studies across the curriculum.”

—Adrianna M. Paliyenko, editor of Engendering Race: Romantic-Era Women and French Colonial Memory

A dugout canoe comes ashore on the island of Saint-Barthélemy in the Antilles; in it are a black man, Arsène, and a sleeping white child, Sarah. Seeking refuge, they are taken in by a good man, but the overseer of his plantation threatens both Arsène and Sarah with the loss of their freedom.

Deborah Jenson and Doris Kadish introduce Sarah, an 1821 novella by Desbordes-Valmore, explaining its autobiographical background, political context (the revolt of blacks against Napoléon’s soldiers), and literary genre (sentimentalism). The novella was a precursor to anticolonial and antislavery texts by Claire de Duras, Victor Hugo, George Sand, and Alphonse de Lamartine.

Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786–1859), born in an artisan’s family, was poor much of her life. Her arrival with her mother in the French Caribbean coincided with the outbreak of rebellion among the black population. After her mother’s death, Desbordes-Valmore returned to Europe, where she worked as an actress and eventually made her name as a Romantic poet.

Introduction (vii)

Selected Works by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (xxix)

Suggestions for Further Reading (xxxi)

Note on the Text (xxxvii)

Sarah (3)