A dugout canoe comes ashore on the island of Saint-Barth lemy in the Antilles; in it are a black man, Ars ne, and a sleeping white child, Sarah. Seeking refuge, they are taken in by a good man, but the overseer of his plantation threatens both Ars ne 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 Napol on'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. Deborah Jenson is professor of French and Romance Studies at Duke University. She is also director of the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies. Her specialties include French studies and Caribbean studies. Doris Y. Kadish is professor emerita of French and Women's Studies at the University of Georgia. Her research interests include women writers and nineteenth-century French literature.