Redefining the “supplement” in 18th-century French travel literature: 1750-1789
Grenvicz, Lisa Olivia
While the tradition of 18th-century French travel literature includes many texts that “supplement” another travel text, there are only a handful of titles that specifically identify themselves as such. Through an original set of categories, this thesis closely analyzes the interaction among travel texts of the period in order to identify a wider ranger of travel “supplements.” This exercise is invaluable to the Enlightenment scholar, as the interplay between travel “supplements” proves to be emblematic of the ongoing debates about religion, morality, race, gender, and colonial pursuits which characterize the cultural discourse of the epoch. However, the difficulty that arises from such an analysis comes full circle in light of Derridean post-modern notions regarding origins, as certain texts such as Diderot’s Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville illustrate that the search for source texts is often a convoluted one, muddled with popular Enlightenment topoi and questionable authorial intentions. In spite of these complications, tracing the journey allows the reader to enter the conversation, and ultimately leads to a much higher-level reading of the work. Culminating in Diderot’s “post-modern supplement,” which serves to dismantle a categorical search for origins, this thesis considers different textual relationships among source texts and their “supplements.” The naturalist Philibert Commerson’s support of Louis-Antoine de Bougainville’s glowing testimony of Tahiti enhances the voyager’s credibility in Chapter 1’s “Eyewitness supplement.” Bernardin de Saint-Pierre’s “Fictional narrative supplement” in Chapter 2 juxtaposes the author’s unpopular, factual account of Mauritius in the Voyage à l’île de France with the enormously popular fictional narrative, Paul et Virginie, the latter of which sacrifices accuracy in favor of an idyllic depiction of the island. Demeunier lambasts relativistic approaches to culture in Chapter 3’s “Anthology supplement,” while ironically falling into the trap of creating universal categories of culture in his anthology, L’Esprit des usages et des coutumes des différents peuples. Ultimately, this analysis stands as a testament to the fluid and interactive nature of the travel supplement, which defines it as an artifact of Enlightenment literary culture.