Dialogues in French Orientalisme: From Painting to Literature

Dr. Muriel Walker
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In 1830 the French started the colonization of Algeria, making their first forceful entrance into the African continent. After this rather painful conquest French intellectuals and artists reacted to this new world and culture. In the arts, painters were particularly inspired by North African culture and especially its women. The current known as Orientalism was then created and paintings of oriental women were very popular for they represented most of the fantasies of occidental men. Algerian women in particular seemed to have inspired most of those 'Harem fantasies' as they are painted in various suggestive positions, looking voluptuous and exotic.

However one painter differed from the others: Eugène Delacroix. In his famous painting 'Women of Algiers in their apartment' Delacroix proposes a different perspective on Algerian women, one that is more intimate, more realistic. Unlike most painters, Delacroix has had the privilege to visit a real Algerian household and paint the women who lived there. He has therefore broken the taboo of penetrating into the harem, and by doing so he also broke the fantasy.

It is this particular moment in art history that I wish to analyze her for it has had, and still has many consequences on painting and literature. One focus point of my analysis will be the work of Algerian writer Assia Djebar as she has been inspired, and has written on the subject of this famous painting. In my presentation I wish to show how Delacroix’ s painting is different from other orientalist works and how the dialogue between art and literature is fed upon the dynamics of colonization and exoticism.

Keywords: French Orientalism, Post-colonial Literature
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies, Aesthetics, Design, Globalisation
Presentation Type: Workshop Presentation in English
Paper: Dialogues in French Orientalisme

Dr. Muriel Walker

Assistant Professor, McMaster University

I have a PhD in francophone literature from the University of Toronto. I am originally from France. I specialize in African, North African, Caribbean and Vietnamese francophone cultures and literatures. I have written my Doctorate thesis on Algerian writer Assia Djebar. I am particularly interested in the problematics of post-colonial theories and the use of French language in post-colonial literature.

Ref: H06P0097