Dr. Joseph-Masséna will present excerpts from her book manuscript Voicing Vodou: Haitian Women Writers and the Goddess Ezili. Her project highlights a previously unidentified literary genre created by three Haitian women writers which she calls “The Eziliphonic text. ”The term “eziliphonic” is a neologism which combines the name of feminine vodou deity “Ezili'' with the adjective “phonic,” referring to “voice” or “speech sound.” The book centers Haitian Women writers as theorists by demonstrating how, within this collectively created literary genre, they effectively rehabilitate vodou culture through their textualization of the feminine deity Ezili, while also centering voice and sound, not vision, as a critical category of the vodou imaginary. There are many iterations of Ezili spirits or lwas in Haitian vodou, but the ones studied here are Ezili Freda, the flirtatious mulatta and lover of all things beautiful, and Ezili Danto, the passionate dark-skinned single mother and fierce defender of her children. Each chapter draws on an interdisciplinary framework, grounded in Black feminist theory, Voice Studies, literary criticism, and Vodou Studies in order to show how Haitian women novelists mobilize Ezili’s vocal, or phonic, specificities in their narratives.
In preparation for the session, students will get acquainted with Jacques Stéphen Alexis’ Réalisme merveilleux or Frankétienne’s Spiralisme. Then, they will read passages from Omise'eke Natasha Tinsley’s Ezili's Mirrors (2018) and Christina Elizabeth Sharpe’s In the Wake: On Blackness and Being (2016). They will also listen to a selection of jazz music.
Dr. Cae Joseph-Masséna is an Assistant Professor of Comparative, Cultural and Francophone studies in the department of Modern Literature & Languages at the University of Miami. Her recent work focuses on contemporary Haitian women writers. A trained Jazz Vocalist and Berklee College of Music alumnus, her research focuses more broadly on the entanglement of voice, music, ritual and sound in Black women’s literary texts. Her research areas include comparative approaches to African diasporic literatures of the francophone Atlantic with an emphasis on Sound/Voice Studies, Haitian Studies and feminist queer of color critique.