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Victor Segalen and the Aesthetics of
                        DiversityJourneys between Cultures$
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Charles Forsdick

Print publication date: 2000

Print ISBN-13: 9780198160144

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198160144.001.0001

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Polynesia and Difference

Polynesia and Difference

(p.102) 3 Polynesia and Difference
Victor Segalen and the Aesthetics of Diversity

Charles Forsdick

Oxford University Press

The role of Polynesia in the French Empire was more strategic than economic, but its sensitive location was of great interest. Victor Segalen's own first major literary work, Les Immémoriaux, has been recognized as one of the only early twentieth-century attempts to analyse Tahitian difference and to strive towards textual recreation of that very difference. For Segalen, the aesthetic attraction of exoticism is in the struggle to maintain difference rather than in the acceptance of the inevitability of its decline. Segalen's attitude to the role of Empire in the transformation of Polynesian culture and society is muted not only by its displacement into the context of early nineteenth-century evangelism, but also by the author's tendency to consider the processes of colonialism in the wider context of Westernization. The narrative of Les Immémoriaux is both obviously prescriptive and latently normative, suggesting a specifically Maori omniscience without any claims to universality.

Keywords:   Polynesia, Victor Segalen, exoticism, aesthetics, French Empire, Les Immémoriaux, difference, colonialism, omniscience, Tahiti

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