Title

Explorers and Missionaries: the making the Marquesas one word at a time

Subject Area

French and Francophone Studies

Abstract

In 1767 Samuel Wallis disembarked in Tahiti. One year later, Louis Antoine de Bougainville arrived on the ships La Boudeuse and L’Étoile. Cook came in 1769. If Wallis had the merit to officially discover Tahiti, he did not leave a significant mark in the sphere of travel narratives, so prolific at the time. A contrast between Bougainville and Cook’s journals, however, provides a valuable insight on the gap separating ideal and real worlds. Cook’s account is, to a certain extent, more factual and built upon an anthropological, albeit Eurocentric, standpoint. Bougainville, on the other hand, was enthralled by Tahiti and let his observations be clouded by an unrelenting shortsightedness and a fertile imagination. These two texts and several others inspired by them led to the arrival of missionaries in the region in the 19th century. Their mission was to document the language and culture in order to become better equipped to civilize the islands. This paper intends to explain how Tahiti's intrinsic identity was deliberately manipulated by these successive encounters with Europeans, who, after reaching the Marquesas and taming the natives, finally transformed a geographic location into a fictional space.

Brief Bio Note

Lúcia Flórido, Associate Professor of French. Her main research interests are the literature from the Age of Enlightenment in Europe and French Polynesian cultural studies.

Keywords

Francophonie, French Polynesia, indigenous studies, history, literature, culture

Location

Afternoon Session 3 (PARB 239)

Presentation Year

April 2019

Start Date

4-11-2019 5:15 PM

Embargo

12-16-2018

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Apr 11th, 5:15 PM

Explorers and Missionaries: the making the Marquesas one word at a time

Afternoon Session 3 (PARB 239)

In 1767 Samuel Wallis disembarked in Tahiti. One year later, Louis Antoine de Bougainville arrived on the ships La Boudeuse and L’Étoile. Cook came in 1769. If Wallis had the merit to officially discover Tahiti, he did not leave a significant mark in the sphere of travel narratives, so prolific at the time. A contrast between Bougainville and Cook’s journals, however, provides a valuable insight on the gap separating ideal and real worlds. Cook’s account is, to a certain extent, more factual and built upon an anthropological, albeit Eurocentric, standpoint. Bougainville, on the other hand, was enthralled by Tahiti and let his observations be clouded by an unrelenting shortsightedness and a fertile imagination. These two texts and several others inspired by them led to the arrival of missionaries in the region in the 19th century. Their mission was to document the language and culture in order to become better equipped to civilize the islands. This paper intends to explain how Tahiti's intrinsic identity was deliberately manipulated by these successive encounters with Europeans, who, after reaching the Marquesas and taming the natives, finally transformed a geographic location into a fictional space.