Isabelle Eberhardt and North Africa

Isabelle Eberhardt and North Africa : Nomadism as a Carnivalesque Mirage

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As a woman who traversed the North African Orient in male costume, who spoke Arabic as well as French, and who professed Islam while transgressing many of its instructions, Isabelle Eberhardt seems to fit within Mikhail Bakhtin's definition of the carnivalesque as the impulse to blend that which is usually kept separate by artificial boundaries and hierarchies. Nevertheless, this study demonstrates that her evolution in the Maghreb is carnivalesque only in appearance. Despite her transvestism, the writer left unquestioned the traditional definitions of masculinity and femininity; it is her subscription to the patriarchal equation of maleness with power and womanhood with weakness which makes her borrow a masculine identity. In a similar way, her appropriation of several elements of Oriental culture does not prevent her from reproducing age-old Orientalist stereotypes. As portrayed in her texts, the natives are either aestheticized as picturesque figures from a bygone age or denigrated as uncivilized, dark-minded creatures.
And because Orientalism, as Edward Said has famously argued, is but a textual manifestation of colonialism, Eberhardt's Orientalist texts make her the accomplice of the colonialist project, a project which she also served by acting as a mediator between General Lyautey and native tribes. In discussing Eberhardt's involvement in the colonial mission and her perpetuation of the patriarchal and Orientalist traditions, this study questions the image of rebel-figure that is usually assigned to her. Instead, it shows the writer's literary and political gestures to be embedded in a marked quest for empowerment through the double (literary and political) conquest of the Orient.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 246 pages
  • 160.02 x 236.22 x 22.86mm | 498.95g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739185926
  • 9780739185926

Table of contents

Contents Preface Acknowledgments List of Abbreviations Introduction Chapter 1: Possessing the Land, Dividing the People Chapter 2: Islam: The Not-So-Straight Way to Power Chapter 3: Desiring Power: The Transvestite Westerner and the Eroticised Native Chapter 4: Journeys: Travel, Writing, and the Changing Self Conclusion: Eberhardt's Life as a Novel-like Epic Appendix 1: Glossary Appendix 2: A Chronology of Eberhardt's Life Bibliography About the Author
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Review quote

In this carefully analysed, well-researched study, Lynda Chouiten argues that Isabelle Eberhardt was not the subversive figure she is often made out to be. Modern Language Review This is a well-researched, important contribution to the field of Orientalist studies. Chouiten examines the contradictions and ambiguities in Eberhardt's life and writings and offers a rare academic critique of both. Chouiten's exposure of Eberhardt is a thoroughly contemporary one. Readers will benefit from her meticulous scholarship and from her reading of Eberhardt through critical lenses of feminism, orientalism, and postcolonialsm. -- Coeli Fitzpatrick, Grand Valley State University Lynda Chouiten's challenging book on Isabelle Eberhardt provides the first full-length critical study focusing on the writings of a remarkable figure, best known for her travels in North Africa, cross-dressing, and conversion to Islam. Yet Eberhardt also defended traditional gender hierarchies and the separation of peoples, simultaneously engaging in romantic idealization and denigration. Chouiten's valuable account develops a rich theoretical perspective on the Carnivalesque mirage in Eberhardt's work. As an Algerian scholar educated there and in Ireland, Chouiten has made an original and lasting contribution to the literature of travel and colonialism with Isabelle Eberhardt and North Africa: Nomadism as a Carnivalesque Mirage. -- Daniel Carey, National University of Ireland
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About Lynda Chouiten

Lynda Chouiten teaches literature at the University of Boumerdes.
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