THE KINGDOM OF THIS WORLD
The purpose of this website is to try and help to you understand the themes and concepts that are discussed in the novel The Kingdom of This World by Alejo Carpentier, by providing some background information and context for the people, places, and events mentioned in the text.
All IAH (Interdisciplinary Arts and Humanities) classes try to use several different media in order to help you learn the material you are presented with, and to expose you to different aspects of the arts and humanities. As such, during this course you will watch films, documentaries, and YouTube video clips; you will listen to music from around the world; you may visit the Kresge Art Museum to view various art works, including painting, sculpture, and pottery; and you will read various historical documents as well. These will include both primary sources, written by the people who actually took part in the events discussed, as well as English literature in the form of novels. These novels are historical fiction that take the events of history as their base, and then elaborate on them to weave stories that are neither accurate descriptions of historical events, nor fully fictional, but a mix of the two.
The Kingdom of This World is one of the novels you will read. The purpose of getting you to read this novel was not primarily for the storyline and plot - though there are a number of historical events and people that are discussed and they are important for this course - but because of the way that the book analyses a number of historical themes that are important for this class. These include the importance of Vodou beliefs to the Haitian Revolution, and the issue of whether or not life was any better for the freedmen and women after the Revolution, when slavery was abolished, and when Haiti gained its independence from France.
Thus the hope is that this website will help give you a better understanding of the themes in the book by allowing you quick and easy access to a source of information that explains some of the people, events, and places that are described in the novel, thus allowing you to gain a fuller understanding of the novel and its themes.
When I first began putting together this website (back in 2003), there was only one edition of the novel available, the 1989 edition, with an orange cover, as seen below:
In 2006 the publishers, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, issued a new edition of the book, with an introduction by the female Haitian writer Edwidge Danticat. This new edition had a black cover, as seen below:
The new 'black' edition of the book retained the same font and style as the earlier 'orange' edition, but while the 'orange' edition began the text on page 7, the 'black' edition began the text of the novel, after Danticat's six page introduction, on page 1.
This meant that when I first began the website I used the pagination of the only edition available, that of the orange text. As the years have passed, more copies of the newer 'black' text have become available and the older 'orange' text became more scarce. This presented a problem for the website, as the pagination of the editions was different, and the whole point of the website was to offer a quick and simple source of information for the novel. Thus, in the summer of 2012, I finally decided to update the website and use the pagination of the now far more widely available edition of the text, the 2006 'black' edition.
At present, only the main page listings in each of the 'Part' glossaies has been updated to reflect the new pagination, and the actual references within the individual pages has yet to be updated.
The updating of the pagination of the website from the 1989 to the 2006 edition of the book was completed in June 2013. The process of continuing to update pages, adding images and further information and links, as well as adding new pages, is ongoing.
The class for which I used this novel is now one I only teach in the summer. As a result, maintenance and update of the website has become more sporadic and less thorough. I will endeavor to keep things up to date, but it would almost be a full-time job given how quickly pages move or disappear on the web these days. Thus, updates will be less frequent from now on.
Updated: 17th May, 2017.