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The Literatures of the French PacificReconfiguring Hybridity$
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Raylene Ramsay

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781781380376

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781380376.001.0001

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date: 23 October 2017

Behind the Accounts of First Encounter and the Tales of Oral Tradition

Behind the Accounts of First Encounter and the Tales of Oral Tradition

Reading Kanak-New Caledonian Texts as Palimpsest

Chapter:
(p.28) 1 Behind the Accounts of First Encounter and the Tales of Oral Tradition
Source:
The Literatures of the French Pacific
Author(s):

Raylene Ramsay

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781380376.003.0001

The Pacific expeditions of Cook and D’Entrecasteaux, the Forsters and La Billardière encounter the Oceanian Other largely through the lens of European frames of perception, most notably the revival of classical mythology and the figure of the noble savage. Although the ‘scientific’ eighteenth-century male spyglass occludes any serious consideration of gender equality, in both the South Seas paradise of ‘Tahiti’ and in a rapidly darker New Caledonia, these early accounts of contact can be seen, for example, to proceed from an implicit interest in the sexual availability of women. Reading the explorers’ texts retroactively to detect the traces of gender bias or again of indigenous social systems creates a hybrid or palimpsestic third space in which different layers of knowledge and preconception co-exist. This first, and itself hybrid, chapter presents what can be read between the lines in the explorers’ texts alongside a second set of foundation stories. In the translations and re-tellings of the tales of Kanak oral tradition, the position and, in particular, the gender of the listener, teller, or reader come to add themselves to the tale told.

Keywords:   Cook, D’Entrecasteaux, Pacific explorers, Sexual availability, Oral Tradition, Gender, Translation, Palimpsestic Hybridity

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