Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


French Studies

First Advisor

Nathaniel Wing


This study focuses on the establishment and critical legitimation of colonial literature as a genre during the period of intense colonial development in France from approximately 1871-1930. Fictional accounts of the French involvement in Indochina are used to examine the paradoxes of colonial representation. Les Civilises by Claude Farrere, Le Kilometre 83 by Henri Daguerches, and Sur la Route Mandarine by Roland Dorgeles are examined in terms of the inconsistencies and contradictions which emerge from the efforts of the narrator/colonizer to inscribe and represent the other in a composite colonial system. These texts are examined in terms of three textual processes: (1) assimilation, which effaces the difference of the other, the colonized; (2) exoticism, which removes the other from the realm of validation, short-circuiting the recognition of the other; and (3) translation/mediation, which acknowledges difference, but presumes to translate the other's being into mutually sufficient terms. In colonial novels, the processes of assimilation, exoticism, and translation/mediation are means by which the other can be variously accounted for, subsumed, or effaced. Ultimately, the novelistic form which engages the discourse of colonialism cannot successfully sustain efforts to portray either a theoretically seamless and unified system of colonial authority or a similarly univocal conception of self. The fact that objective realist colonial texts fail, intrinsically, to represent their purported subject and subjects derives partially from colonialism's social and idealogical paradox: there was not nor could there be a logically unified, normalized society of colonizers and colonized. Western conceptions of authority, totalization, transcendence, subjectivity, and objectivity are brought into question in works where colonialism and imperialism are dominant and organizing structures. The oppositions and questions that arise in the juxtaposition of a Western "dominant" (the colonizer) over and against an Eastern "other" (the colonized) are played out textually in novels of a genre which sought to describe and represent colonialism faithfully, realistically, objectively. This study examines the colonial relationship, not only as a function of a socio-political construct, but also in terms of the cultural and philosophical implications and groundings of such a relationship.