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‘De-exoticizing’ the Exotic: Victor Segalen’s Aesthetics of Difference

Khadija Belhiah


If Segalen’s radical approach to the exotic has earned him the appreciation and the consideration of such authors as Michel Leyris, Claude Lévi-Strauss, and Abdelkébir Khatibi, and others, it has gone almost unnoticed by Edward Said in his Orientalism, who mentions him only once in passing, and dismissively so, among writers who were not ignorant of “the wisdom of the east” such as Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Arthur Waley, Fenellosa, and Paul Claudel.  Although Said does not inflict on Segalen the bad treatment he inflicted on some other French Orientalists, and in fact puts him alongside such ‘venerable’ figures as Pound, Yeats, and Claudel, one would expect him to make a more honourable mention of Segalen whose views on colonialism and exoticism were radically opposed to the then-accepted colonial views on such issues. Whether this was simply an oversight on the part of Said or an intended critical dismissal, it is, nonetheless, a fact that Segalen is becoming more and more ‘incontournable’, difficult to ignore, overlook, or dismiss, and this, for the exceptional views he expresses on the question of exoticism and colonialism.


Exoticism; colonialism

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