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From Cannibals to Radicals: Figures and Limits of Exoticism

Copyright Date: 1996
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    From Cannibals to Radicals
    Book Description:

    In this fascinating analysis, Roger Célestin examines the concept of exoticism from a historical and literary perspective. Through close readings of works by Montaigne, Diderot, Flaubert, Barthes, and Naipaul, Célestin examines the way these writers have challenged representations of cultural identity in their time.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-8647-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION Exotic/Exoticism: Moving the Wor(l)d Around
    (pp. 1-27)

    “Exotic” implies the existence of (different) cultures; “exoticism” requires the presence of (individual) identities. The people and things of one culture can seem “exotic” to another, but it takesdesire,which originates in a self-affirming subject, for the apparently innocuous shift from adjective to substantive to occur. To find something “exotic” does not require individuation, does not entail a demarcation from one’s own culture, from Home, as I call it; it does not require, in other words, any disruption of local, national, even imperial codes. On the contrary, the practice of classification under the rubric “exotic” remains ruled by and...

  5. CHAPTER ONE Montaigne: The Private, Savage Self
    (pp. 28-62)

    In the Renaissance, travelers and “geographical authors,” as our reference calls them, “were not given to introspection.” They were “vigorous men” whose books “gave facts”; they were not “given to the egotistical pleasure of distinguishing themselves by telling extraordinary personal adventures.” They were, in short, “positive men.” These observations on French travelers of the Renaissance lead Geoffroy Atkinson to remark generally about exoticism: “These ideas ofexoticism,which, in our days, constitute an esthetic heritage but which originate in aliterary convention,are completely unknown to the man of the Renaissance.”¹

    Given these considerations, it may seem surprising to find...

  6. CHAPTER TWO Bougainville and Diderot: The Static Explorer and the Chameleon Philosopher
    (pp. 63-92)

    In hisMiroir d’Hérodote,an “essay on the representation of the Other,” François Hartog divides representations of the exotic into two distinct categories in Herodotus’sHistories:those based on an “espace de parcours” (space of travel) and those based on an “espace de savoir” (space of knowledge).¹ According to this division, Scythian territory becomes either a space actually experienced (walked through, seen, touched, etc.) by Herodotus, or a space elaborated, deduced as it were, through Center-originated sciences, (Greek) geometry among others. Sometimes, according to Hartog, Herodotus can be said to “cheat”: he presents information gathered through a space of knowledge...

  7. CHAPTER THREE Flaubert: The Cannibal Stylist
    (pp. 93-133)

    On November 23,1863, Théophile Gautier wrote to Edmond and Jules de Goncourt in an effort to explain to them what “exoticism” meant to Gautier himself and to others, including Flaubert, with whom the term had become associated:

    Il y a deux sens de l’exotisme: le premier vous donne le goût de l’exotisme à travers l’espace, le goût de l’Amérique, le goût des femmes jaunes, vertes, etc. Le goût plus raffiné, une corruption plus supreme, c’est le goût de l’exotisme à travers le temps: par exemple, Flaubert voudrait forniquer à Carthage; vous voudriez la Parabére; moi rien ne m’exciterait comme une...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR Barthes: The Splendor of the Signifier
    (pp. 134-174)

    I began the preceding chapter by quoting Sartre’sL’Idiot de la famille,in which he critically examines and comments onSalammbô,the work by Flaubert I see as perhaps the closest he comes to his “livre sur rien,” his “book about nothing.” Sartre comments “critically” in the sense that he “criticizes severely and unfavorably”¹ what he perceives to be Flaubert’s relinquishing of the contemporary world; his refusal to take a stand; his refusal, in Sartre’s terms, to accept “engagement.” The opposition made by Sartre is between a writer who accepts the fact of his own world and is involved in...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE Naipaul: The “Exotic” View
    (pp. 175-215)

    Vidiadhar Surajprasad Naipaul himself gives us an element of what we could call a crisis of exoticism when he comments on his own “exotic” origin and on the relation of this origin to an audience:

    It isn’t easy for the exotic writer to get his work accepted as being more than something exotic, something to be judged on its own merits. The very originality of the material makes the work suspect.¹

    Naipaul’s work seems “suspect” and “exotic”; it does not seem to belong in a progression that begins in the Renaissance with Montaigne’s “Of Cannibals” and continues in the Enlightenment...

  10. CONCLUSION: Trinkets from Outer Space
    (pp. 216-224)

    The first recorded use of the wordexoticin the French tradition this study has concentrated on (and also the earliest in Europe)¹ is in Rabelais’sQuart livre(1548), in which he mentions “diverses marchandises exoticques et peregrines qui estoyent par les halles du port” (diverse exotic and peregrine products that were to be found throughout the port). In the Western tradition, the termexoticwas at first applied specifically to products, flora and fauna, that came from far away, far from Europe, from Asia and Africa, and, later, from the “New World.” Rabelais’s usage is in a tradition that...

  11. Notes
    (pp. 225-250)
  12. Index
    (pp. 251-254)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 255-255)