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Title: Encountering the Sahara : French literary geographies and visual representations of the nineteenth-century desert
Author: Leroy, Sophie Louise Jeanne
ISNI:       0000 0004 6056 7383
Awarding Body: University of Bristol
Current Institution: University of Bristol
Date of Award: 2016
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Following Napoleon's invasion of Egypt in 1798, the deserts of North Africa - and the Sahara in particular -' became a major landscape of the nineteenth-century French geographical imagination. Central to imperial conquest and colonial expansion, the Sahara inspired military missions, travel expeditions, and encyclopaedic surveys, as well as literature and paintings. Drawing on literary and visual theory, human geography, cultural history, and philosophy, my thesis explores representations of the Saharan desert in a selection of nineteenth-century French texts and images. My corpus ranges from the Description de l'Egypte (1809-29) to Eugene Daumas' military journal, Le Sahara algerien (1845), and from Maxime Du Camp's travel writing and photographs to Eugene Fromentin's Algerian narratives (ca. 1857-59) and Isabelle Eberhardt's autobiographical writings (ca. 1899-1904). In bringing together this hybrid corpus, I examine different cultural formations and discursive conceptions of landscape: landscape as an empirical field of research and landscape as a projection of cultural ideas and ideologies. I explore several interrelated questions. How might attention to the poetics of French colonial literature open up fresh readings of the cultural constructions of North African landscapes in the nineteenth century? What happens to the notion of 'imagined geographies' when material experiences of embodied proximity with other landscapes and peoples are carefully analyzed? And, how might these reflections provide new and alternative ways of understanding and interpreting 'encounters' with North African landscapes outside of traditional critical narratives of domination and colonialism? This attention to landscape complicates straightforward interpretations of the Sahara as a 'backdrop' or 'setting' for colonial exploration. Instead, the environmental specificity of the desert is . shown to trouble and subvert the ambitions of totalizing European projects, exposing the limitations of Orientalism and its binary structures (East and West, Self and Other, proximity and distance), which occlude, more than they explain, the complexity of France's multiple encounters with the Sahara.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available