Figuring the East

Segalen, Malraux, Duras, and Barthes

By Marie-Paule Ha

Subjects: Literary Criticism, French Studies, Asian Studies
Paperback : 9780791443866, 160 pages, December 1999
Hardcover : 9780791443859, 160 pages, December 1999

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Table of contents



1. Reading of the Asian Other

2. Segalen's "Quexotic" Quest

3. The Other in Malraux's Humanism

4. Duras on the Margins

5. Another Barthes



Works Cited


Examines the ambiguous constructions of the Orient in the works of four major twentieth-century French writers.


The four authors treated here—Victor Segalen, André Malraux, Marguerite Duras, and Roland Barthes—each experienced at one point in his or her life a deep dissatisfaction with modern European values, followed by a turn toward the East. However, due to different class, gender, and personal backgrounds, they each entertained diverse and complex relationships to (post)colonial ideology, which they both served and subverted at the same time. By engaging in an "off-center" reading of these authors' Eastern texts, and by examining their ambiguous constructions of the Orient, Figuring the East challenges the facile dichotomy that postcolonial critics frequently draw between the Western colonial Self and the Eastern exotic Other.

Marie-Paule Ha is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature at the University of Hong Kong.


"There have been many essays prompted by postcolonial concerns, especially in the United States, but most focus on authors from other areas of the Francophone world, mainly Africa and the Caribbean. Figuring the East, however, focuses on authors who belong to the French literary canon. For that reason, it is a welcome and important contribution to the study of contemporary French literature, and it helps reassess prior views on certain works and authors." — Michel Laronde, University of Iowa

"This 'off-center' reading of European texts offered by Marie-Paule Ha is both provocative and engaging." — John Romeiser, editor, Revue Andre Malraux