Serge Rivière Lecture

19 September 2018
Indian Ocean Marine Research Centre Auditorium,
(Building 453), The University of Western Australia
General Public, Faculty/Staff, Students, Alumni

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Matthew Flinders statue

The Explorer’s Self-discovery: Matthew Flinders’ Correspondence with Mauritian friends during, and after, his imprisonment on Isle de France (1803-1814)

A public lecture by Professor Serge Rivière, 2018 UWA Institute of Advanced Studies Visiting Fellow.

Throughout seven years of exile, which was marked by frustration and  hope, followed by disillusionment and anger born of an inability to influence events and an increasing sense of futility, the support of friends on Isle de France kept Flinders afloat. In a letter to Captain Augustin Baudin of 10 January 1806, Flinders acknowledged that his Mauritian entourage had been most hospitable, but he added: 

“I am as happy as the peculiar circumstances of my detention will permit me to be; but a man who is suffering in his rank and fortune, who is prevented from the credit due to his labours, who is losing his time, and is unjustly kept from his country and his family, cannot be supposed to be very happy”.  

Yet in his Voyage to Terra Australis, as he left the Isle de France in June 1810, he expressed genuine sadness. What light does Flinders’ correspondence shed on the personality and intellectual development of the celebrated explorer? For one who had built his fame on voyages of discovery, imprisonment on an island was especially galling and non-productive.  This lecture will explore the circumstances and impact of Flinders’ long period of maritime inactivity in Mauritius which provided ample opportunities for reflection and introspection. Cultural displacement often combines with relative solitude to broaden the mind and deepen one’s self-knowledge, leading to moments of epiphany. Thus, total immersion in another culture had, partially at least, a beneficial effect on Matthew Flinders, as he found himself at the cross-roads of the cultures of two nations in conflict.

Marc Serge Rivière, born in Souillac, Mauritius, was Laureate of the Royal College of Curepipe in 1965 on the Arts side. He completed an MA at Aberdeen University (Scotland, 1970), a postgraduate MA at McMaster University (Canada, 1971), a PhD at Glasgow University (Scotland, 1980) and a Dip.ed. at Monash University (Australia, 1982). From 1970 to 2008, he lectured on French and Francophone Literature and Cultural Studies in Scotland, Canada, Australia, France, Ireland and Mauritius (as Visiting Professor at UoM from 2003-2005). On his retirement in 2008, he was awarded the title of Professor Emeritus of Limerick University, Ireland. He was decorated by the French Government as Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques in 2005. 

Professor Rivière has published 34 books in French and English and over 70 refereed articles on: Voltaire and the 18th century; Australian, German and Irish History; Travel Literature; Mauritian History and Francophone Literature, and the writings and biographies of great men. He is the author of A Woman of Courage: The Journal of Rose de Freycinet on her Voyage around the World, 1817-1820 (National Library of Australia, 1996 and 2003). His latest works are: No Man is an Island: The Irish Presence in Isle de France/Mauritius (1975-2007) (E.O.I., 2008) and Les Codes Noirs (Osman Publishing, 2009 and 2013). He now resides in Mauritius and lectures at the Mahatma Gandhi Institute and the Open University.  

All at Sea: Restoration and Recovery Series

Our oceans and coasts provide us with food, energy, livelihoods, cultural and recreational opportunities, yet they are coming under increasing pressure. This UWA Institute of Advanced Studies - UWA Oceans Institute Lecture Series explores the wonders of our seas, the challenges they face and how research at UWA- in a diverse range of fields including marine science, ocean engineering, health, humanities and social sciences- are contributing to ensure sustainability.

Other lectures in this series:

25 October
Blue Energy: South West WA’s future as a marine renewables hub
A public lecture by Professor Christophe Gaudin, Head of Oceans Graduate School and Director Wave Energy Research Centre.