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Current State: Published
Dr.Pratima Prasad


Title: From Resistance to Restraint: How French Romantics Reinvented the American Indian
When What
Starts on 04 March 2010 Title: From Resistance to Restraint: How French Romantics Reinvented the American Indian

Title: From Resistance to Restraint: How French Romantics Reinvented the American Indian

 

This talk is excerpted from a larger project that studies constructions of race in French Romantic literature.  It explores how metropolitan French Romantic novels comprehend and construct colonized peoples, fashion French identity in the context of colonialism, and record the encounter between Europeans and non-Europeans.  While the primary texts that come under my investigation are novels, I pay close attention to Romantic fiction’s interdependence with naturalist treatises, travelogues, ethnographies, and encyclopedias of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

In my talk, I will explore Romanticism’s reimagination of the figure of the American Indian in light of France’s slow exile from North America.  I suggest that during the eighteenth century, a few decades before the ascendance of Romanticism as  the dominant literary movement in France, a vital anticolonialist strain in Enlightenment thinking produced a particular kind of New World subject: defiant, rebellious, and desirous of cultural and territorial sovereignty.  The resisting and rebellious Amerindian of eighteenth-century anticolonial texts reappears in early nineteenth-century Romantic fiction only to be transformed into what I term “the disciplined savage.”  I argue that this shift may have to do with the peculiar transitional historical circumstances within which Romantic authors produced their works.  Even if North America as a colonial territory was irrevocably lost to the French by the early nineteenth century, the imagination of an indigenous subject amenable to moral, educational and religious edifications was a usable construct.  The Romantic reinvention of the American Indian aligned itself with some of the ways in which the French colonial project was being redefined during the early part of the nineteenth century.

 

About the speaker:
Pratima Prasad is Associate Professor of French at the University of Massachusetts-Boston.   Her current research interests include nineteenth-century French and Francophone culture, Romanticism, and the relationship between colonialism and literature.  Previously, she has published on topics such as the intersections between the novel and drama in the nineteenth century, and constructions of gender in the works of novelist George Sand.




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