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Eastern Voyages, Western Visions

French Writing and Painting of the Orient

Margaret Topping

Strange and exotic, seductive and threatening, the Orient has always been an enchanted space for the West. But this is a space, theorists argue, that has been ‘Orientalized’ by the West, constructed upon a system of knowledge and power which defines the West as much as this ‘Other’. Within Western cultures, the French encounter with the Orient has been extraordinarily rich and varied, from the experiences of the first pilgrims to the challenges posed for the identity of modern-day France by its ethnic minorities. This collection of interdisciplinary essays explores the range of French and francophone encounters with the East from the medieval period to the present day. The contributions encompass a variety of Orients, both geographical and generic: the Orients of the visual arts, of historicist discourse, of fiction and travel writing. They consider not only those artists we immediately associate with the East, such as Nerval or Fromentin, but also those, like Proust, whose work appears firmly rooted in the West. They also provide new insights into the less familiar works of long-celebrated authors like Flaubert and more recently acclaimed writers such as Bouvier and Djebar.
Contents: Finn E. Sinclair: Conquering Constantinople: Text, Territory and Desire – Wes Williams: ‘On a coustume de dire’: Narrative Habits on the Journey East (1550-1615) – David Maskell: Orientalism Subverted in Racine’s Bérénice and Bajazet – Sheila Mason: New Perspectives on the Lettres persanes: Montesquieu and Lady Mary Wortley Montagu – Ceri Crossley: Orientalism and Historicism in France 1820-1848: The Case of Michelet and Quinet – Michel Brix: Nerval and the Orient of Books – Adrianne Tooke: Flaubert: Views of the Orient – Barbara Wright: Eugène Fromentin and Orientalism – Peter Cooke: Gustave Moreau’s Orient, or ‘la civilisation Moréenne’ – Edward J. Hughes: Exotic Drift: Pierre Loti between Contemporaneity and Anteriority – Margaret Topping: Proust and Persia – Akane Kawakami: In Claudel’s Footsteps – Renaud Ferreira de Oliveira: Léon Werth en Indochine: Au cœur du mensonge – Charles Forsdick: L’Orient quoi! Nicolas Bouvier and the Post-Orientalist Journey – Margaret A. Majumdar: Orientalism and the Problematic of Vision - A Contemporary Perspective.