Building on the critical foundations established by Edward Said in Orientalism , Foreign Bodies examines the relationship between the Orientalist tradition in French art and literature and France's colonial history. It focuses on a central dimension of this exchange: the prevalent figure of the "oriental woman," and the interplay of race and gender in both domestic and colonial history. It also offers a genealogy of contemporary French attitudes to Islamic culture, in which beliefs about sexuality and gender relations continue to occupy a privileged place.
The author examines the extent to which the rhetorical status and political implications of Orientalism register the changing circumstances of French colonial activity, tracing the convergence, or divergence, of colonial practice and the literary record. She also argues against the tendency, in both historical and theoretical writing on colonialism, to divide center from margins, metropolitan from colonial. Instead, she shows how colonial products and ideas permeated the domestic culture and shaped its evolution.
Finally, the book proposes that the feminine figures of Orientalist texts are often interwoven with representations of language, and more specifically with representations of language as an alien and resistant codesomething other than the transparent medium of ideas. It suggests that in promoting awareness that language is not simply the neutral medium of thought and experience, these veiled figures of language function as "foreign bodies," creating disruptive effects within an economy orchestrated toward the production of knowledge of the other.
However, the book also argues against the view, espoused by certain critics, that the self-reflexivity of Orientalist writing fully counteracts its polarizing political effects, arguing instead for a process of "double reading" that acknowledges both the geopolitical power encoded within Orientalist representation and the ways in which specific texts resist this power.
|Publisher:||Stanford University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.57(d)|
About the Author
Madeleine Dobie is Associate Professor in the Department of French and Romance Philology at Columbia University.
Table of Contents
|List of Illustrations||ix|
|1.||Polygamy, Slavery, and the Colonies: Montesquieu's De l'Esprit des lois||35|
|2.||Truth and Representations: Old and New Languages in the Lettres persanes||61|
|3.||Intimacy Exposed: Gender, Race, and Language in the Oriental Tale||83|
|4.||Split Figures: Women and Language in the Oriental Travelogue||121|
|5.||The Modernist Turn in Orientalism: Gautier's Egyptian Tales||147|