This project, "Postcolonial Concerns: Gender, Race and the Dynamics of Representation in six novels by Alin Laubreaux'', demonstrates the relevance of studying an imperfect model of French postcolonial literature in the modern cultural climate. Working within a framework of close literary analysis, it focusses broadly on the related concerns of gender, race, and the notion of representation itself, demonstrating how each is depicted and used by Laubreaux, and considering their specificity in the context of postcolonial literary studies. The corpus comprises six novels by New Caledonian author Alin Laubreaux, published between 1928 and 1941. All six novels are male-oriented adventure stories, depicting life in colonial France at the turn of the twentieth century, and focussing specifically on tensions arising from racial, gender and class divisions. The literature is read against contemporary critical works in the fields of postcolonial literary and cultural studies of which the majority falls within the period 1970-2000, Some key French works of literary criticism dating from the early 1900s are also considered. Laubreaux's novels provide a point of entry into a multitude of discourses pertaining to the experience and representation of postcoloniality. His candid approach to the tensions of inter-cultural relations illustrates and judges the attitudes and practices of the time, highlighting in particular the hypocrisy and contradictions, and the resulting possibilities for exploitation and misrepresentation inherent in colonial societies.
Laubreaux's preoccupation with gender and race is articulated through a series of predominantly white male protagonists, whose stories revolve around their encounters with marginalised, racial or gendered "Others". These encounters are enabled by Laubreaux's setting his stories in exotic locations and addressing themes specific to those sorts of locations. The notion of representation is raised explicitly and implicitly by the texts themselves, through narrative choices and assumptions as well as the thematic orientation and content of the corpus as a whole. The simplistic irony of Laubreaux's novels is particularly interesting in that it allows his articulation and exploitation of a proliferation of stereotypical images and ideas even as it condemns them. The more sophisticated approach of contemporary postcolonial critics such as Tzetvan Todorov and Homi Bhabha helps identify and explain such contradictory or misleading elements within the fiction, enabling consideration of a set of underlying assumptions and inherent contradictions not acknowledged by the author.
The thesis is structured around five broadly defined themes, each of which constitutes both a form of marginalisation and familiar trope of popular (post)colonial literature. The five chapters demonstrate how recurring images of travel, exile, hybridity, destiny and adventure enable and are enabled by a series of exotic encounters which question the white man's place in the postcolonial world and aspects of the way in which that "place" is depicted. Representing the history and spirit of colonisation, such images become problematic when (re)presented and (re)considered in the postcolonial context. Treatment of them within such self-consciously postcolonial works of literature as Laubreaux's is interpreted here as an attempt to address their newly problematic nature. That is to say, it is an acknowledgment of the author's postcolonial concern with representation, its implications, and their consequences.