Friday, September 28, 2:30 pm, 112 Folwell Hall
Lynn Festa: "The Cook, the Thief, the Knife, and the Other: Possession and Loss in Eighteenth-Century Tahiti"
Dept. of English, Rutgers University. Lynn is a comparatist working in the 18th century. She is doing a TEMS presentation on Enlightenment birds-eye views (intersection among aesthetics, science, and history).
Focusing on Bougainville’s and Cook’s late eighteenth-century accounts of Tahiti, this paper examines the way persons and things (including a cook, a thief, a knife, and both lovers and others) are exchanged, offered, filched, and relinquished in cross-cultural encounters between the sailors and the islanders. Notwithstanding depictions of Tahiti as tropical paradise of free love and unbridled pleasures, neither sailors nor islanders invariably get what they want— what they lack and what they desire. I trace the way these abrupt and often unhappy reversals compel Bougainville and Cook to turn from figures of analogy and similitude to the splintering displacement and distancing of irony, a turn in trope that I argue can help us understand the critical role played by irony in producing a purchase point on a globalized world, both then and now.