Event Date: 30 November 2016
Gowar & Wedderburn Common Room
Royal Holloway University of London
Professor Charles Forsdick (James Barrow Professor of French and AHRC Theme Leadership Fellow for Translating Cultures, University of Liverpool) – Exoticism as Keyword
Professor Charles Forsdick, James Barrow Professor of French and AHRC Theme Leadership Fellow for Translating Cultures, University of Liverpool, ‘Exoticism as Keyword’
Although absent from Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society (1976) and also from the revised version of the text, New Keywords: A Revised Vocabulary of Culture and Society (2005), exoticism seems to lend itself to the approach proposed by Raymond Williams: i.e., the term may be seen to exemplify the understanding of the ‘keyword’ as part of ‘a vocabulary to use, to ?nd our ways in, to change as we ?nd it necessary to change it, as we go on making our own language and history’. Central to such an approach is an awareness of the (un)translatability of exoticism, the meanings of which in an Anglophone context are very different from those in the French-speaking world. Engaging initially with the emergence and evolution of the concept of exotisme in the work of Victor Segalen, the paper will consider the term as a ‘keyword’ that has evolved across the twentieth century and, despite the ideological and theoretical challenges to which it has been subject, persisted into the twenty-first. I will explore the understandings of Segalenian exoticism that have emerged from the selected fragments of the Essai sur l’exotisme currently available in a published form, and track the ways in which these have formed the basis of dialogues with a range of key thinkers and writers including Jean Baudrillard, Patrick Chamoiseau, James Clifford and, perhaps most significantly, Edouard Glissant. The paper concludes with a reflection on the status of exoticism as a concept in a postcolonial frame, and explores its persistence in a number of recent studies across a range of disciplinary fields.
Introduction by Professor Daniela Berghahn (RHUL):
Response by Professor James Williams (RHUL):