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Sex, Sailors and Colonies

Narratives of ambiguity in the works of Pierre Loti


Hélène de Burgh

This book focuses on the œuvre of nineteenth-century author and naval captain Julien Viaud (1850-1923) who wrote under the pseudonym Pierre Loti. Considered a best-seller in his day and a distinguished naval figure, Loti’s contribution to French naval and literary history is significant. This work suggests a new reading of Loti’s literature that positions his texts within the critical theoretical paradigms of Postcolonialism and Queer Theory.
This study examines both Loti’s fictional and non-fictional opus. It explores the dominant themes relayed throughout his œuvre including his portrayal of exotic sexuality as being underpinned by a desire to elude articulation, his uncertain approach to colonialism given the constant shift between his identity as a colonising sailor and sympathising exoticist and Loti’s own self-representation in both his fictional and non-fictional works. His constant re-invention of «Pierre Loti» as a persona in his writing creates a question about who Loti really is and how much of the man is represented in the so-called autobiographical text. These seemingly disparate themes of sexuality, colonialism and personal identity are all interrogated as posssible sites of ambiguity, thus revealing the general scope and complexity of Loti’s work.
Contents: Exotic desire and the subversion of the femme orientale as sexual heroine in the early fiction – Ambiguity and slippage as narrative in the search for an object of desire – Subliminal narratives of anti-colonialism in the fictional and non-fiction works – Identity in the Colonies: Transgressions in the Orient and the subversion of the Self.