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Critical Terrains

Critical Terrains: French and British Orientalisms

Copyright Date: 1991
Published by: Cornell University Press
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Critical Terrains
    Book Description:

    Examining and historicizing the concept of "otherness" in both literature and criticism, Lisa Lowe explores representations of non-European cultures in British and French writings from the eighteenth through the twentieth centuries.

    eISBN: 978-1-5017-2312-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 1-29)

    In Flaubert’sMadame Bovary, a novel reflecting the tedium and homogeneity of French provincial life, Emma’s young lover Léon imagines that he finds on her shoulders “the amber color of theOdalisque au bain.” The workings of masculine desire are illustrated by the young lover’s metonymic substitution of Ingres’s Turkish bather’s shoulders—smooth-skinned and distantly exotic—for the doctor’s wife whom he holds in an adulterous embrace. As Léon imagines the shoulders of one of Ingres’s oriental women, his conflation enunciates and reiterates an established association of the oriental with the feminine erotic. Throughout Flaubert’s writing versions of this theme...

  2. (pp. 30-74)

    Eighteenth-century portraits of the oriental world as an exotic, uncivilized counterpart of Europe were crucial enunciations of the discourses that produced representations of the European world as knowing, stable, and powerful. Travel literature performed these acts of symbolization for French and English culture; by figuring travelers in foreign lands encountering strange and disorienting customs and practices, the trope of travel allegorized the problems of maintaining cultural institutions amidst challenging othernesses, of establishing cultural standards and norms in the context of heterogeneity and difference. In this way not only did the literary theme of travel serve to express the eighteenth-century colonial...

  3. (pp. 75-101)

    Traveling through Egypt in 1853, Flaubert wrote to his mistress, Louise Colet, about the courtesan Kuchuk-Hânem, describing her thus in order to assure Colet that she had no reason for jealousy. This unsettling description of “la femme orientale” is paradigmatic of the intersections of and collusions between several nineteenth-century French discourses, not only of orientalism and romanticism but also of race and industrial capitalism. Like the passage from Flaubert that begins Chapter 1—the young adulterer’s comparison of Emma Bovary’s shoulders with those of Ingres’s odalisque—the evocation of Kuchuk-Hânem also conflates an eroticized female figure with a stylized orientalist...

  4. (pp. 102-135)

    In 1975 one of the more noted Indian literary critics of E. M. Forster, Vasant A. Shahane, edited a volume of essays by Indians on Forster’s famous novelA Passage to India(1924). In the introduction toFocus on Forster’s “A Passage to India”Shahane explains that the primary justification for the collection of essays was “to project an Indian critic’s image of Forster’sA Passage to Indiaafter about fifty years of its impact on this country and the English-speaking world. What is basically important in this approach isthe Indianness of the native point of view, its process...

  5. (pp. 136-189)

    The discourse of orientalism is never independent of the contiguous discourses that figure otherness. Discourses operate in conflict, and each discourse is actively bound to other discourses which may reiterate, contradict, and criticize its ruling figurations. The notion of woman as Other, for example, takes shape in a field defined, on the one hand, by scientific, psychoanalytic, and literary representations of “woman” and, on the other, by feminist critiques of these representations. Likewise, we saw in the last chapter that Indianness as difference forms a multivalent hinge between the British colonialist discourse, which excluded Indians, and the Indian articulations of...

  6. (pp. 190-200)

    Frantz Fanon, the Martiniquan psychiatrist who served in an Algerian hospital during the French-Algerian war, gives us inL’an cinq de la révolution algérienne(1959) a study of how objects and practices that had been used previously by the colonizing power can be appropriated by the “native” group seeking independence. He describes how apparatuses that began as vehicles of French oppression, such as the radio, medical practices, or law enforcement, were reappropriated by the Algerians and turned to serve in the war against the French. When forms within the native culture, such as the women’s custom of wearing veils or...

Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
This book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0).
Funding is provided by National Endowment for the Humanities