Slavery and Orientalism in Balzac’s La Fille aux yeux d’or

Meng Yuqiu



This paper reads Honoré de Balzac’s 1834 novella “La fille aux yeux d’Or” as the male French protagonist’s harem fantasy over a female slave from the West Indies. I argue that Balzac’s fiction exposes the late Restoration and then the July Monarchy’s strenuous efforts of dealing with colonial slavery both as a historical legacy and contemporary reality: at a time when the consequences of colonial slavery were the most acutely felt and visible, France seized the possibility of penetrating the Orient to release its anxiety over colonial slavery. My reading will shed new light on the deep-running logic of the emergence of so-called modern Orientalism, precisely: a process of exoticization that tries to construct colonial slavery practiced in the Old Colonies into an Oriental phenomenon, in which the violence inflicted on the Old Colonies is projected as violence by the Orientals.    




slavery, Orientalism, harem, colonialism

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