Just Teach One

Editing Revolutionary Materials

Siân Silyn Roberts
Queens College

To introduce the “Account of a Remarkable Conspiracy” into my syllabus, I went with the most obvious pairing: Leonora Sansay’s Secret History. We had already discussed at length how Sansay’s novel uses the language of sexual politics to think through the operations of colonialism, empire, revolution, and slavery.  I suggested to my students that something similar might be at work in the Makandal piece, asking them why a figure from an earlier historical moment might have spoken in increasingly urgent ways to readers familiar with the turmoil in the West Indies and broader Atlantic world.

We also paid particular attention (more so than with any other text put out by JTO) to Makandal as an edited text.  Starting with the complex publication history, we considered why the change in title (as the text moved from French to English to American publications) potentially changed the reception of the piece. We then proceeded to look at the various editorial changes the text underwent as it was translated from French to English.  This meant paying close attention to the details provided in the footnotes (thank you Duncan and Ed!!), and considering why those changes might have been made.  This proved particularly productive, as it really asked students to engage with questions about reception, the editor function, and the dynamics of revolution and representation. A great text – many thanks again for such a teachable work!


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