Deborah Jenson
Professor of Romance Studies

I am a scholar of "long 19th century" in French and Caribbean literature and culture, cognitive literary studies, health humanities, and global health. Running through all my research, teaching, and outreach is the problem of representation and mimesis, on axes from social contagion to rhetoric to mirror neurons. Here are some ways to think about my work:

  • Research: articles on Sylvia Wynter and Global South Philosophy in PMLA, "Creole" poetry by Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (Cahiers Marceline Desbordes-Valmore), and a co-authored study on qualitative representations of epilepsy in Epilepsy and Behavior. Forthcoming work on Haitian psychiatrist Louis Mars in Black Psychology, and a co-edited research topic with Marco Iacoboni and Len White on Representation in Neuroscience and Humanities in Frontiers. Monographs, edited volumes, editions, and translations include: Beyond the Slave Narrative: Politics, Sex, and Manuscripts in the Haitian Revolution; Trauma and Its Representations: The Social Life of Mimesis in Post-Revolutionary France; Poetry of Haitian Independence (with D. Kadish and N. Shapiro); Unconscious Dominions: Psychoanalysis, Colonial Trauma, and Global Sovereignty (with W. Anderson and R. Keller); Sarah, A Colonial Novella (with D. Kadish); and "Coming to Writing" and Other Essays by Hélène Cixous.
  • Public humanities: co-founder and co-director of the Haiti Lab (2010-2013), founder and co-director of the Health Humanities Lab (2015-2020), and co-founder and co-director of the Neurohumanities Research Group (2013-) at the Duke Institute for Brain Sciences.
  • Pedagogy: my teaching builds on the interdisciplinary nature of my work, from "Flaubert's Brain: Neurohumanities," "Pandemic Humanities: Reimagining Health and Medicine in Romance Studies," and "Trauma and Global Health," to "Mimesis in Theory and Practice," "Global Humanities in French," and "Sylvia Wynter, Frantz Fanon, and Caribbean Philosophy Writ Large."
  • Administrative leadership: from directing the Franklin Humanities Institute, the Center for Latin American and Caribbean Studies, and co-directing the Brain & Society theme of Bass Connections, to P.I.ship of grants including the Mellon "Humanities Futures" grant at FHI, and co P.I.ship with Ed Balleisen of the NEH Next Generation "Versatile Humanists" grant.
  • For a profile of one of my remarkable undergraduate students in French, see this feature on Marshall Scholar Julie Uchitel: https://today.duke.edu/2022/05/duke-alumna-awarded-knight-hennessy-scholarship.

Office Hours

Tuesday1:30-4 pm or by appointment

Current Appointments & Affiliations

Contact Information

  • 112 Language Center, Box 90257, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708
  • 205 Language Center, Box 90257, Durham, NC 27708-0257

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