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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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China and Alterity

China and Alterity

(p.140) 4 China and Alterity
Victor Segalen and the Aesthetics of Diversity

Charles Forsdick

Oxford University Press

Whereas Victor Segalen's representation of Tahiti had been a reaction to a specifically utopian strand in the French imaginary, with the introduction of China into his texts, he implicated himself in a more diffuse Orientalist tradition. These texts also give rise to issues of accessibility, which Christian Doumet has described as the ‘question sinologique’. The distinction between reading subject and exotic object is perpetuated, but there is a resultant reputation of ‘difficulty’ pertaining to these texts whose exoticism depends on such perceived esotericism. This chapter considers the relationship of Chinese texts to their Polynesian predecessors as one not only of transcendence, but also of dependence on the constant alternation that provides the impetus for Segalen's exoticism. Chinese philosophy, for example, is described in the Essai as a system of thought diametrically opposed to what he had previously explored. This search for what is literally antipodean is central to Segalen's aesthetics of the exotic as well as to his poetics of travel.

Keywords:   Victor Segalen, China, exoticism, esotericism, Chinese texts, Polynesia, alternation, aesthetics, travel, poetics

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