Graduation Year

2006

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Art and Art History

Major Professor

Elisabeth Fraser, Ph.D.

Co-Major Professor

Helena Szepe, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Sheramy Bundrick, Ph.D.

Keywords

France, Egypt, colonialism, travelogue, engravings

Abstract

This study analyzes the travel conventions manifest in the engravings of the

thirty-volume

Description de l’Egypte produced as a result of the Napoleonic campaign

to Egypt in 1798 and published between 1809 and 1828. The first chapter examines the

discourse established on Egypt in travelogues throughout the eighteenth century prior to

the invasion of the country. I argue that the perceptions developed around the country

did not stem from actual experience, but from political and economic motivations that

cast Egypt in a light favorable for occupation.

I examine how this perception was challenged during the collapse of distance

between the French and Egyptians in the process of colonial encounter. Drawing upon

medical records and proclamations of the French medical team in Egypt, I examine a

specific epidemic known as ophthalmia that led to swollen, irritated eyes and eventual

blindness throughout the French army in Egypt. While it is actually caused by

Chlamydia, in every appearance it makes in French medical records throughout the

occupation, the disease was blamed on the climate, sunlight, and air specific to the land

of Egypt. As a result, I argue that the

Description’s hyper-real contrasts of light and dark

and amplified decay in its representations of the monuments residing in Egypt’s ravaging

climate are determined by the manner vision itself was altered by the epidemic of

ophthalmia.

I then contend that there exists a metaphorical parallel between the decaying

pharaonic monuments in the

Description and the perceived decay of modern Egyptian

society that are linked by misconceptions of Egypt’s climate. I conclude that the effect

of Egypt’s climate believed to destroy both physical monuments and physiological

disposition was used as evidence to support the larger agenda of French imperialism that

justified colonization of Egypt.

Lastly, this study examines how Egyptians counteracted the negative discourse of

their race by appropriating symbols of their country used in European representations and

altering them to develop a national identity. Tracing the time period from French

occupation through British colonization, Egyptians were able to galvanize resistance

while still working within the confines of colonial control.

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