Between Dreams, Desires, and Realities (3)
The ‘Orient’ of the Maghreb and the Old Levant
The chapter follows Custine, Dumas, and Gautier to the Maghreb, and then Lamartine and Nerval to the old Levant. It shows that while their support for France's colonialism and mission civilisatrice never wavered, their personal quest for various energies persisted. These countries also provided them with their most dramatic encounters with alterity in the form both of extreme rites of possession (Gautier) and sub‐Saharan Africans. Predictably, their reactions to the former tended to be troubled, and to the latter negative, but in Lamartine's and Nerval's two Voyage(s) en Orient a growing ambition can be observed to inform readers more amply about the cultures encountered. Lamartine did this by the documents he incorporated, and Nerval by the wide reading on which he drew and the critical awareness he showed of his own position as observer, the relativity of all exoticism, and the refusal of Oriental realities to conform to his desires.
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