Victor Segalen and the Aesthetics of Diversity
Victor Segalen's death at the age of 41 brought his work to a premature conclusion. The extensive manuscript drafts left at various stages of completion suggest that his project of forging a new exoticism or Aesthetics of Diversity was only partially fulfilled, that his works remain stubbornly incomplete. Speculation surrounding Segalen's death remains rife. The absence of concrete clinical evidence has led to the transformation of this physiological event into an enigma of mythical status rooted in textual interpretations. Largely thanks to Segalen, exoticism has been resurrected as common currency in current theoretical considerations of relationships between cultures. Such a renewal of the concept of exoticism has had a particular influence in the fields of anthropology and ethnography. Segalen is linked closely by Tzvetan Todorov to Pierre Loti in several domains: in their anti-democratic views, their belief in the insurmountability of racial difference, and their attraction to indigenous women as a route to the exotic.
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