Travellers' Visions: French Literary Encounters with Japan, 1887-2004
By: Akane Kawakami
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What is involved in 'seeing' a foreign culture? Guidebooks, historical references and cultural prejudices constantly colour what the traveller might hope to see afresh, with a 'naked eye'. Through whose...Read more
What is involved in 'seeing' a foreign culture? Guidebooks, historical references and cultural prejudices constantly colour what the traveller might hope to see afresh, with a 'naked eye'. Through whose eyes, for instance, do we see Japan today? This book is an analytical history of French literary images of Japan, since its reopening to the West in 1854 to the present day. It aims to analyse the social and historical contexts surrounding French perceptions of Japan, to present close readings of selected texts, and to show how Japan offers an 'exceptional' instance in postcolonial studies of French literary relations with the east, being a Far Eastern country that was never colonised by the west. The book is centrally concerned with the experience of seeing and understanding a foreign culture, focusing on each writer's individual vision of Japan. Each of these is related to a specific mode of travel - journalism, diplomacy, collecting, ethnography, photography - and each writer is discussed as a different type of traveller.
The book offers an unusual angle on the work of canonical writers such as Proust, Claudel, Michaux and Barthes, as well as being an introduction to several less well-known writers such as Farrere, Loti and Gerard Mace. Interdisciplinary in scope, the end result is the history of the intercultural exchanges between France and Japan, between a literary lineage and the object of its gaze, that is still relevant and pertinent today.
About the author: Akane Kawakami