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Ramapo College Professor To Discuss Reissued Novel of 19th Century Life On Cuban Slaveholder’s Plantation

(PDF) (DOC) (JPG)February 9, 2001

(Mahwah) — Patricia M. Ard, assistant professor of English at Ramapo College of New Jersey and a Morristown resident, will discuss the recently reissued Juanita: A Romance of Real Life in Cuba Fifty Years Ago, Tuesday, March 13 at 1:15 p.m. in the Adler Theater (on the Ramapo campus). Originally published in 1887 and reissued in September by the University Press of Virginia, the novel was written by Mary Peabody Mann, who based it on her experience of living on a Cuban slaveholder’s plantation from 1833 to 1835. Ard is the book’s editor and wrote an introductory essay.

Though a surprising number of middle-class women from the United States traveled to Cuba in the early 19th century, few possessed the literary gifts and intellectual connections of Mary Peabody Mann. Mann was at the center of New England intellectual life: she was married to Horace Mann, a prominent and effective proponent of public education; her sister Sophia was married to Nathaniel Hawthorne; and her sister Elizabeth brought the kindergarten movement to the United States.

An outgrowth of the Gothic literary tradition in the Americas, Juanita centers on the extended visit of Helen Wentworth, a New England teacher, to a childhood friend’s plantation. There she witnesses African slaves’ arrival, sale and gross mistreatment at the hands of coffee and sugar planters. The novel’s namesake is the beautiful mulatta slave with whom the plantation owner’s son falls in love. The novel raises questions about the relation of slavery in the Caribbean to that in the United States, while also probing the connection between romance and race.

Ard’s introductory essay reinvigorates the place of women writers in the American Renaissance and American reform movements. Showing possible mutual influences between Mann and Nathaniel Hawthorne,
Ard also discusses links between Mann and her contemporary, Harriet Beecher Stowe. As it brings to light significant aspects of antislavery feminist authors, Juanita informs the reading of canonical texts such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1852) and Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (1861). The reissue of Juanita both introduces contemporary readers to a neglected novel and illuminates our understanding of 19th century American literature.

This lecture is second in a series, Writers, Voice, Culture, exploring writers and their work. The Adler Theater is located in the Angelica and Russ Berrie Center for Performing and Visual Arts.


About Ramapo College

Ramapo College of New Jersey is the state’s premier public liberal arts college and is committed to academic excellence through interdisciplinary and experiential learning, and international and intercultural understanding. The comprehensive college is situated among the beautiful Ramapo Mountains, is within commuting distance to New York City, was named one of the 50 Most Beautiful College Campuses in America by CondeNast Traveler, and boasts the best on-campus housing in New Jersey per Established in 1969, Ramapo College offers bachelor’s degrees in the arts, business, data science, humanities, social sciences and the sciences, as well as in professional studies, which include business, education, nursing and social work. In addition, the College offers courses leading to teacher certification at the elementary and secondary levels, and offers graduate programs leading to master’s degrees in Accounting, Applied Mathematics, Business Administration, Contemporary Instructional Design, Computer Science, Creative Music Technology, Data Science, Educational Leadership, Nursing, Social Work and Special Education, as well as a Doctor of Nursing Practice.


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