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EMMA (Études Montpelliéraines du Monde Anglophone)

Hadrien Fontanaud (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3), • “Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962): Reframing Imperialism and the Poetics of the Desert”


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Hadrien Fontanaud (Université Paul-Valéry Montpellier 3), • “Lawrence of Arabia (Lean, 1962): Reframing Imperialism and the Poetics of the Desert”

Filmed in 1962, Lawrence of Arabia offers a critical look on British imperialism. Yet this British and American co-production draws on the Empire films of the 1930’s: it focuses on one of the battlefronts of the British Empire in Egypt as well as in the Middle East, and shows parallel with American westerns by emphasizing the confrontation between Whites Europeans and Natives. Many others elements reminds us of the western such as trains attacks, epic rides and more importantly the lonely hero and the wide-open spaces. This presentation aims to show how the film, while keeping the conventions and the Eurocentric perspective of westerns and Empire films, explores the ambiguities of imperialist narratives. It will examine how the desert conveys these ambiguities appearing both as a fantasized territory to explore and conquer and a place of roaming and disorientation. The analysis will show how the exploration of space is linked to an exploration of Lawrence’s psyche, exposing his instable cultural identity split between British and Arabic cultures, and his disturbing relation with violence, thus challenging the traditional boundaries and hierarchy between civilisation and savagery, east and west.

 


 

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