Sarah Jessica Johnson

Sarah Jessica Johnson
Provost's Postdoctoral Fellow in English
  • Department of English
Rosenwald 411

My work is broadly concerned with seventeenth through nineteenth-century archives of slavery and marronage in the United States and Caribbean. I am interested in questions of how certain resistance practices refuse or reject textual and visual representation, and the resulting challenges such escapes from representation pose for historical authors and literary scholars today. I teach transnational literary histories of slave and maroon narratives, as well as courses on early constructions of race and forms of bondage in North America.

My research explores how historical marronage is represented differently than other forms of flight and freedom from slavery. Crucial to this study is an archival paradox: Maroons absented themselves from the printed record, eschewed the position of author, only to be figured and represented by others who, expectedly, struggled with the depiction of a practice they could not know firsthand. My work foregrounds an archival pursuit in which recovery is deprioritized by highlighting the ways in which life as maroon promoted the kinds of archival silences lamented by many scholars of slavery. My current project argues for how practices of marronage shape narrative and archival form in eighteenth and nineteenth-century anglophone and francophone U.S. and Caribbean texts.

I am working on an additional project concerning a woman called “Tituba, the Indian” who was one of the first people accused in the Salem Witch Trials of 1692-93. I examine Tituba’s paradox of articulate silence in the context of oppression and coerced speech. In addition, I discuss the work of the women, such as Maryse Condé and Donia Elizabeth Allen, who have wrestled in creative works with Tituba’s unknowable personal history and contradictory testimony. Part of this project includes a collaboration with the artist Marisa Williamson.

My translation of the short story “Bras-Coupé” was published in Transition in 2015. Originally written in French by Louis-Armand Garreau, the story depicts the escape, marronage and revenge of an enslaved man in French colonial Louisiana who comes to be known as Le Bras-Coupé. This work is part of my ongoing effort to translate eighteenth and nineteenth-century Francophone Louisiana texts


2018-2019 Courses:
Undergraduate: Spring 2019, Black in Colonial America: Three Women

Selected Publications

  • Garreau, Louis-Armand. “Bras-Coupé.” Translated by Sarah Jessica Johnson. Transition 117, (2015): 23-39.
  • Education

    Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley, 2018. Teaching at Chicago since 2018.