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By Joseph Barrell

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For whereas in Le Mariage de Loti and Madame Chrysanthème, the ship setting sail spells narrative closure, Aziyadé ends with the realization of a desire for incorporation into ancient Ottoman culture, as Loti dies fighting in the service of the Sultan. 28 Exotic dress, which so seduced the Turcophile hero in Istanbul, stands initially as a mark of radical alienation in Le Roman d’un spahi. Contemplating his brightly coloured spahi’s uniform complete with fez, Loti’s soldier-hero serving in Senegal, the Cevennol peasant Jean Peyral, asks accusingly why he has been turned into a half-African, a being apart.

Thus the ethnographic fantasy, while ostensibly focused on the Polynesian Other, readmits repressed European fears about the brittle foundations of its own civilization. Gauguin, too, if we are to believe Segalen, was exercised by visions of apocalypse. 40 In this mythical scenario, he imagines the painter, desperate to preserve a culture in ruins, dreaming about its petrification. 41 Nevertheless, the European desire to capture a claimed savage beauty entails, paradoxically and ambiguously, its reification.

But hast thou found Their former charms? . are thy simple friends, Thy simple fare, and all thy plain delights, As dear to thee as once? (The Task) Cowper sees the corruption of Omaï by the West as it pursues its voyeuristic and predatorial impulses. However, sensing more poetic beauty than truth in Cowper’s assertion of a Western cultural victory, Moerenhout prefers Delille’s perspective, in which Potavéri, pining for the flora of his native Pacific, finds it in the munificent gardens of Versailles: [A thousand things full of charm .

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A Philosophical Study of the Human Mind by Joseph Barrell


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