François-René de Chateaubriand has a dual use of exoticism in his novel Atala. Chateaubriand uses exoticism combined with orientalism to create a new and different world, thus alienating the reader. Chateaubriand then uses exoticism combined with romanticism allowing the reader to identify with the story and characters.
Chateaubriand traveled to America in 1791 and published his first novel stemming from his travels, Atala, in 1801. He chose to write the story about the Natchez, an Indian tribe obliterated by the French in the early 1700’s. Chateaubriand was a pioneer in the Preromantic Movement, which is evident in Atala. Preromanticism is a term that is greatly contested. The ideas of Preromanticism and Romanticism are essentially the same so some argue that Preromanticism is merely early Romanticism. For the purposes of my argument I will simply refer to this concept as Romanticism.
At the time when Atala was written and published, (late 1700’s early 1800’s), there was a great excitement for traveling and stories about traveling. A by-product of this excitement was exoticism. Exoticism is focusing on differences and then either minimizing or maximizing the differences to create an “other.” Orientalism started as a form of exoticism that specifically referred to the Orient and customs of the people therein.
Angela Bird, ’00 Mesa, AZ
Majors: French and Biochemistry
Sponsor: Jan Boney