Representations of the Amazonian Native in French Literature (from the 19th to the 21st Centuries)

Fournier Kiss, Corinne (6 April 2023). Representations of the Amazonian Native in French Literature (from the 19th to the 21st Centuries) (Unpublished). In: Writing the First peoples of the Americas: Quebec, Florida, Amazonia, the Caribbean. Tallahassee. 5-7 avril 2023.

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Since the second half of the 19th century, and inspired by the amazing discoveries listed in naturalists’ travelogues, a significant number of European adventure fictions chose Amazonia as place of action: the rainforest, a real but permissive space because not yet entirely interpreted, seemed to be an ideal place in which to locate the adventures of intrepid heroes. If, in these novels, the forest landscapes, the fauna and the flora are described at length, both in their magical and frightening aspects, this is not the case with respect to the native inhabitants of Amazonia, who are hardly mentioned – or if so , generally in wholly negative terms. From JULES VERNE’S La Jangada (1881), where the natives are so submissive and discreet that they are the only characters lacking a name, through BLAISE CENDRARS’Moravagine (1926), where the Indians encountered are not only primitive in their cannibalistic customs, but also in their appearance and in their smell (they are all blue because of a disease that discolors their skin and covers it with suppurating sores), to PASCAL MANOUKIAN’S Le Cercle des Hommes (2020), a novel that popularizes the technique of “reverse ethnography” (where the Westerner is reduced to a mute and stupid animal, who is observed, studied and judged by the natives, rather than the opposite). I would like in this paper to examine the evolution of the representations of indigenous people in French literature from the nineteenth to the twenty-first centuries, and to show how the anthropological works of Claude Lévi-Strauss and Philippe Descola on Amerindian thought and culture have radically revolutionized these representations.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)


06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of Linguistics and Literary Studies > Institute of French Language and Literature

UniBE Contributor:

Fournier Kiss, Corinne


300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology
800 Literature, rhetoric & criticism > 840 French & related literatures




Corinne Ingrid Fournier Kiss

Date Deposited:

11 Apr 2023 10:13

Last Modified:

12 Apr 2023 21:06

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