Narratives of the French Empire

Narratives of the French Empire : Fiction, Nostalgia, and Imperial Rivalries, 1784 to the Present

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Using fiction as a historical source, this study investigates how the French empire was construed and infused with meaning at three historical moments: 1784, 1835, and 1938. Showing how literary and more general conceptions of French colonialism were influenced by an awareness of how rival European powers had negotiated conquest and disengagement from empire, it illustrates how perceived loss and nostalgia for imperial pasts helped shape the French colonial enterprise across its various manifestations.
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Product details

  • Hardback | 150 pages
  • 149.86 x 228.6 x 17.78mm | 476.27g
  • Lanham, MD, United States
  • English
  • 0739176560
  • 9780739176566

Table of contents



1. Colonial Encounters and Empires in Contact

2. Tahiti: La Nouvelle Cythere, the Morality of Colonialism, and Pseudo-Foreign Letters

3. Martinique, Slavery, and Emancipation: Louis de Maynard de Queilhe's Outre-mer

4. `Une effrayante epidemie': The Red Threat, Indian Decolonization, and Desordres a

5. Competing Colonialisms, Competing Memories: The After-lives of Empire


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Review quote

"This scholarly but readable account affords an original and perceptive understanding of cultural and literary manifestations of the vagaries associated with the French colonialist adventure, focusing on Tahiti, India and Martinique. Kate Marsh's book is invaluable not just for its survey of the methodological complexities surrounding such an undertaking, but also for its evaluation of how the French contrasted their colonial system with those of other colonial powers." -- Martyn Cornick, University of Birmingham "In this important new study, Kate Marsh takes a transnational approach to colonial and Francophone studies, analyzing three distinct literary texts over three centuries. She demonstrates convincingly that our understanding of empire must include the interactions of different imperial formations-specifically, the ways in which French colonialism compared itself to that of other European nations, notably Britain. Focusing on islands and colonial outposts rather than the great colonies of Africa and Asia, Marsh gives us a new portrait of France's colonial empire, one in which expansive power, comparative inadequacy, and moral superiority intertwine. Narratives of the French Empire is a must-read not only for those interested in the literature and history of the French colonialism, but equally for those concerned with culture, transnationalism, and the making of the modern world." -- Tyler Stovall, University of California, Berkeley "Marsh takes three novels from three distinct periods (1784, 1835, 1938) and through close, astute readings that are refreshingly attentive to both narrative strategies, historical circumstance and a range of discursive practices, she provides significant insights into French colonial anxieties caused by imperial rivalries. Raising the question of how empire was imagined, Marsh scrupulously probes three moments, three novels-each inflected with a fiction of nostalgia, each acting as a crucible within which competing imperial strategies were tested and assessed. Narratives of the French Empire re-adjusts our thinking on French colonial self-fashioning and provides a welcome and nuanced assessment of an imperial trajectory which, as Marsh so persuasively argues, continues to persist within contemporary France. This utterly convincing book is an exemplary realization of the interdisciplinary ideal and a model for future practice." -- Patrick Crowley, University College Cork
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About Kate Marsh

Kate Marsh is Reader in French historical studies at the University of Liverpool.
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