"[L]à-bas, où sa race est née." Colonial Anxieties and the Fantasy of the Native Body in Maupassant's Le Horla


This article examines the convergence of medical discourse, colonial politics, and the role of fantastic literature in fin-de-siècle France, through the lens of Guy de Maupassant’s 1887 tale Le Horla. Entangling the Horla in the complex history of the French engagement with Brazil, while simultaneously mobilizing the specter of tropical disease, Maupassant doubly evokes a colonial frustration surrounding the ability of European powers to maintain control of colonized nations and the dangers threatened by the encounter with "primitive" lands. I argue that the “corps inconnaissable” of the Horla functions as a screen onto which the narrator projects a slew of anxieties concerning racial otherness and the future of Western civilization—anxieties that resonate strongly with those that infused the discourse of tropical pathology in the late-nineteenth century. 

Lisa Ann Villarreal
Release Year:
Project MUSE: 
2013 (42.1-2)