Following the revival of Marivaux’s La Dispute in 1973, drama critics have often ignored its colonial subtext. In this article, I argue that Marivaux’s island plays—L’Île des esclaves (1725), L’Île de la raison (1727), La Nouvelle colonie (1729, revised and published as La Colonie in 1750)—along with his experimental La Dispute (1744) implicitly refer to French Atlantic colonies. By analyzing these plays in dialogue with the Code Noir, the laws governing French forms of slavery, I unearth two colonial regimes within Marivaux’s work. The 1720s plays transform a maroon economy, wherein the enslaved disobey colonial rule, into a Christian moral economy, in which a sovereign treats the servants humanely, while the subaltern population obeys the master’s authority. Twenty years later, La Dispute imagines a colony that essentially and perhaps unwittingly parodies a slavery-based plantation economy, in which the cultivation of human vice reveals the vanity of racialized hierarchies. Through this study, I encourage practitioners and critics to engage with Marivaux’s colonial subtext.


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pp. 271-296
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