Meet the Mousmé. The Otherness of the Japanese Woman in the Writings of French Women Travellers of the First Half of the 20th Century

Anne-Aurélie Seya-Grondin


From Pierre Loti to Nicolas Bouvier, via Roland Barthes and many other Western travellers, the perception of Japanese women and their otherness since the 1860s has been constantly enriched by diverse and recurring mental images linked to a certain form of exoticism and Japonism. It seems essential to enrich the reflections on the concept of the otherness of feminine discourse in order to shed new light on major issues of the history of French women travellers, the French imagination of Japan and Japanese exoticism. This article explores some avenues of reflection on the construction of the figure of the Japanese woman, a pillar theme of travel literature, present in travel writings produced by French women. How to meet the other and the other’s elsewhere when this other is also a woman? What is the perception of Japanese women in French women’s travel writings? What areas of the allegory of the elsewhere inherited from a dominant discourse of male travellers can be found (or not) in these discourses of women travellers? Beginning from the concept of Mousmé, introduced by Loti, and all the exotic load that results from it, the author reflects on the circumstances of encounters and the particularities of writings from the perception of the other as a female and her feminity. But it is not simply a question of entering into a purely comparative vision by confronting women travellers with dominant male travel literature. By analysing several writings in the light of a collective Japanese imagination in French, the author can reveal facets of Japanese exoticism and otherness hitherto subcontracted and intrinsically linked to women’s travel practices; but also open the door to a reflection on the importance of enriching the mental representations of Japan with narrative produced by women about women.


French women travellers; travel literature; mental representations of Japan; otherness; exoticism

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Data publikacji: 2020-12-29 08:16:42
Data złożenia artykułu: 2020-03-12 17:33:02


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