Exotic Subversions in Nineteenth-Century French Fiction

Jennifer Yee

Research Monographs in French Studies 25


25 July 2008  •  136pp

ISBN: 978-1-905981-51-9 (hardback)  •  RRP £80, $110, €95

ISBN: 978-1-315094-22-9 (Taylor & Francis ebook)


In the course of the nineteenth century France built up a colonial empire second only to Britain’s. The literary tradition in which it dealt with its colonial 'Other' is frequently understood in terms of Edward Said's description of Orientalism as both a Western projection and a 'will to govern' over the Orient. There is, however, a body of works that eludes such a simple categorisation, offering glimpses of colonial resistance, of a critique of imperialist hegemony, or of a blurring of the boundaries between the Self and the Other. Some of the ways in which the imperialist enterprise is subverted in the metropolitan literature of this period are examined in this volume through detailed case studies of key works by Chateaubriand, Hugo, Flaubert and Segalen.

Jennifer Yee is Tutor in French at Oxford University and Fellow of Christ Church College.


  • ‘An elegant and thoroughly researched monograph... a valuable reference for future work on exoticism, imperialism and postcolonial France.’ — unsigned, Forum for Modern Language Studies 46.1, January 2010, 120
  • ‘A highly effective demonstration of the use of postcolonial perspectives to open up new possibilities for our reading of the nineteenth century.’ — Timothy Unwin, Modern Language Review 105.2, 2010, 561-62 (full text online)
  • ‘Yee’s text, stranded between the dogmatic (un)certainties of “1991” and the questions that have opened up in its ongoing aftermath, provides a salutary, if unintended, reminder of what it is that we, as postcolonial critics, have been invested in, and of what is at stake in our ongoing attempts at justifying this investment (the “aesthetic turn”) or contesting it (the “political turn”). Were the praise-songs of “oppositionality,” which once (à la Lowe, Chambers, Scott) dominated our field, simply the epiphenomena of a strategy of containment through which postcolonial studies was bound to a certain vision of “complexity” at odds with the anti-colonial, and unrepentantly non-literary, dynamics of a work like Orientalism, so that its truly radical (and, first and foremost, anti-Zionist) politics could be rendered palatable to an Anglo-American academic audience ever in search of a specious newness but intent on preserving the old, bourgeois order upon which literary studies, and the affect that so intimately at’ — Chris Bongie, Francophone Postcolonial Studies 7.2, 2010, 89-94
  • ‘Bongie's review is alarmingly accurate. I do indeed accept 'literature as [my] chosen and delimited field of study' (though I try to see that field as part of a broader history). And he is entirely accurate in saying that I see the subversions offered by nineteenth-century literature as largely falling short of 'true resistance'... Of course the literature of the nineteenth century is racist according to our modern definitions; but racism is so vast and insidious a phenomenon that it is not in itself analytically useful and requires careful historical nuancing. In any case, although I am most interested in an approach that combines aesthetic and political concerns, and would regret such a rigid separation as Bongie appears to think necessary, I also differ from him in my belief in a supple and many-voiced criticism that does not need to dictate one single mode of textual analysis.’ — Jennifer Yee's invited reply to Chris Bongie's FPS review, Bulletin of Francophone Postcolonial Studies 1.1, Spring 2010, 15-17
  • ‘In this elegant, lucid, and original study of four ‘exotic’ works by Chateaubriand, Hugo, Flaubert, and Segalen, Jennifer Yee turns her back on Edward Said's negative depiction of nineteenth-century Orientalism in order to read her chosen texts from a post-colonialist perspective... Impressive and admirably comparative.’ — Michael Tilby, French Studies 64.4, 2010, 495-96

Bibliography entry:

Yee, Jennifer, Exotic Subversions in Nineteenth-Century French Fiction, Research Monographs in French Studies, 25 (Legenda, 2008)

First footnote reference: 35 Jennifer Yee, Exotic Subversions in Nineteenth-Century French Fiction, Research Monographs in French Studies, 25 (Legenda, 2008), p. 21.

Subsequent footnote reference: 37 Yee, p. 47.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

Bibliography entry:

Yee, Jennifer. 2008. Exotic Subversions in Nineteenth-Century French Fiction, Research Monographs in French Studies, 25 (Legenda)

Example citation: ‘A quotation occurring on page 21 of this work’ (Yee 2008: 21).

Example footnote reference: 35 Yee 2008: 21.

(To see how these citations were worked out, follow this link.)

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