Literary Orientalism (A Companion)

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Item Code: IHL309
Author: A.R. Kidwai
Publisher: Viva Books Private Limited
Edition: 2009
ISBN: 9788130912646
Pages: 403
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.7 Inch X 5.6 Inch
Book Description
Back of the Book

The first of its kind this companion charts out the genesis evolution and the present scenario of a fascinating aspect of English literary studies literary orientalism largely unacknowledged and little known subtitled of English literature. It seeks to answer questions such as what is literary Oreintalism. What does it signify? What are its constituents? Who are its practitioners? What is its scope and relevance?

It lists bibliographical details of around 300 critical studies 900 articels and conference presentations and 400 Ph. D. Dissertations on the broad contours of literary Oreintalism. Also it brings into sharper focus the contributions of 45 select British men of letters like Chaucer, Shakespeare, Byron, Shelley, yeats, and Doris Lessing to this strand of English studies.

While the bibliographic survey in the book helps researches and scholars the lucid and detailed introduction at the beginning makes the subject accessible to students in general.

From the Jacket

The origin of literary Orientalism is in the various military, religious diplomatic political and socio-cultural encounters between the Christian West and the Islamic east, Major works of Western literature and art contain references to Oriental Cultures often Emphasizing cultural differences in a hostile manner. Literary Orientalism A Companion is a systematic compilation of the instances of Literary Orientalism in English literary and Critical texts organized in six categories.

• Writers works and critical studies
• Critical Books
• Articles and conferences presentations
• Doctoral dissertations
• Literary Oreintalism and the Arabian Nights
• The Oriental Tales and literary orientalism.

About the Author

Prof. Abdur Raheem Kidwai Completed His M.A., M/Phil and Ph. D in English literature from Aligarh Muslim University India. He obtained a second Ph. D in English form the University of Leicester UK and an advanced certificate in teaching of English as a foreign language from Aston University, UK. He has been a Professor at the department of English, Aligarh Muslim University and a visiting Professor Department of English University of Leicester. He has published several books including orientalism in Lord Byron’s Turkish Tales (1995) The Crescent and the cross: Image of the Orient in English literature (1997) stranger than fiction image of Islam/Muslims in English fiction (2000) Essential teachings of the Quran (2004) behind the veil representation of Muslim women in Indian writings in English 1950-2000 (2007) bibliography of the English translations of the Quran 1647-2002 a critical study (2007) and 365 sayings of the Prophet Muhammad (2007). Prof. Kidwai is currently Director Academic staff college Aligarh Muslim University.


As a young student of masters in English literature at the Aligarh Muslim University, Aligarh, India (1975-7) I was excited to note for the first time a few samples of literary Oreintalism in some of the literary texts prescribed for my study: Langland’s Piers the Plowman Chaucer’s prologue to the Canterbury tales Bacon’s on Boldness Milton’s paradise lost Coleridge’s Kubla khan and Eliot’s wasteland. Later on while working on my first doctoral dissertation on the modes of Satiric Consciousness in Lord Byron’s poetry at the Aligarh Muslim University it was my great pleasure to study Byron’s dabbling with the customs of the east in his Beppo and Don Juan. In the 1990s when I embarked upon my second Ph. D on Byron’s Turkish/Oriental tales at the university of Leicester UK I had an opportunity to explore at length this field of English literature, generally speaking however literary Orientalism is a largely unacknowledged and little known field of English studies. Notwithstanding the recent appearance of several significant works on its main contours most of the students of English literature seem to have a very hazy idea about its history its existence and its ongoing argumentation. Some are even apt to ask bluntly what it literary Oreintalism? Who have been its practitioners? When did it begin? What is its present status? What is its scope and relevance?

This companion to literary Orientalism by way of listing and classifying relevant material (bibliographical details of more than 300 critical books 900 articles and conference presentations and 400 doctoral dissertations) in an attempt to help one find answers to the above questions. Its main objective is to present a conspectus of the tradition of Literary Orientalism as it brings into sharper light the contribution of 45 select British men of letters with the exception of Poe from Chaucer (1343-1400) to Doris Lessing (1919-) to this strand of English studies. It specifies their works which are constituted from and draw into focus Oriental material of which the quantum varies unevenly from one work to another. For example William Beckford’s Vathek (1786) abounds in Oriental content and context whereas Shelley’s Revolt of Islam notwithstanding its unmistakably Oriental sounding tittel has only slight traces of Oriental element. The identification of the Critical corpus Books articles and conference presentations and doctoral dissertations on each of these 45 writers aims at facilitating literature survey by researches. A part from its documentary and bibliography value this section may help researchers embark upon both fresh and related areas of study and familiarize them with the latest thrust areas trends and issues in the field. This companion to literary Orientalism draws attention also to the pivotal role played by the Arabian Nights and Oriental Tales in promoting the tradition of literary Orientalism.

It will be in order to define at this juncture the key terms literary Orientalism and Orient as used in this work. In simple rather over simplified words Orientalism represents the fruits of study undertaken by western scholars of the geographical entity called the Orient. Going by the same rubric, literary Orientalism stands of the depiction of the Orient/ Orientals in western literary texts. As to the term Orient it refers on one level to a geo-civilizational entity the lands to the east of the Mediterranean and stretching through Asia mainly Turkey, Arabia, Persia, China, Japan, India and also covering Africa. On the other level however the term orient has strong and unmistakable religious socio-cultural and emotional overtones. In this work the Orient specifically stands for Muslim lands. The Orient thus is inevitably what might be termed as a charged topos. It is worth adding that in western literary Orientalism Orientals have been interchangeably labeled down the ages also as Saracens/ Moors/Easterners/Bedouins and Mohammedans. This companion to literary Orientalism focuses on the treatment of only Islam and Muslims in western literary Orientalism to the exclusion of other religious, ethic, linguistic or racial groups in the Orient who otherwise happen to be equally important. It must be stated tha literary Orientalism as a subfield of English studies had come to the notice of critics and research students much before the publication of Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978). Said’s chief contribution consists in his brilliant analysis of this legacy. What is nonetheless siginificent is that even these pre-1978 critics seem familiar with tropes of representation cross-cultural encounter empathy and of employing the Oriental setting as a pretext for grappling with or interrogating some wider or sensitive issues closer home. For example as far back as in 1908 Martha P. Conant in her Oriental tale in England in the eighteenth century besides surveying the Oriental tales of the day classified these into four distinct groups which underscore their functional roles:

The imaginative group…revived…in Beckford’s
Vathek. The Moralistic and Philosophic groups are
prominent in periodical essays form Addison to
Dr. Johnson…The Satiric group is chiefly
exemplified by…Goldsmith’s citizen of the world
and by count Hamilton’s entertaining parodies.

Marie de Meester’s Oriental Influence in the English literature of the nineteenth century (1914) and Edna Osborne’s oriental diction and theme in English verse 1740-1840 (1916) stand out as the earliest instances of wide ranging surveys while B.P. Smith’s Islam in English Literature (1937) as the first well focused study of literary Orientalism. With the passage of this line of enquiry gained much in depth and rootage and critical studies on various eras of English literary history and on individual writers for example Chaucer’s Dante’s Shakespeare’s Byron’s and forester’s Orientalism saw the light of the day.

The phenomenon of the cross cultural encounter or of the divide between us and them which has been cogently stated by Edward Said had not gone unnoticed even earlier in the pre-1978 studies on literary Orientalism the western/ European/ British Image of the Orient/ Orientals representation of the other with special references to race, faith group ethnicity or color was examined from a variety of angels in several works.

Norman Daniels Islam and the west The making of an Image (1962) and Victor J. Tolan’s recent work’s being thorough and substantial study of both the confrontation and interaction between the two major world civilizations the Islamic and the western document the plethora of misconceptions, misperceptions and half-truths that had gained currency in the west up to the medieval period about Islam/Muslims. More significantly most of these resurface in many specimens of literary Orientalism the premise that lies at the core of Said’s trenchant critique of select literary texts in his Orientalism.

The represtation of one group be it religious ethnic linguistic racial or social cultural by another is liable to err. The history of literary Orientalism is inevitably shot through with religious and cultural bias. For it regrettably originated from the clash both literal and metaphorical between two major faiths – Christianity and Islam which culminated in the Crusades. Little wonder then that the divide between the two is habitually inscribed in literary texts. The material included in this companion to literary Orientalism in a sense both reflects and attempts to bridge the gap between these two great civilizations. Needles to add such a study has assumed greater relevance and urgency in the post 9/11 world of ours.

After the appearance of Said’s Orientalism (1978) the nascent field of literary Orientalism has no doubt, attracted greater attention. There has been a marked increase in the number of new books and articles and conference presentations on the subject. More significantly literary Orientalism is now being studied in the broader context of its nexus with such rubrics as Feminism/ Mysticism/Post Colonialism/Cultural studies/Empire/ Politics of Representation/film and popular culture/self identify/Exoticism.

Another welcome development is the more active role of young researchers with the Oriental Background in their participation in the discourse on literary Orientalism. Equally impressive has been the recent spurt in the doctoral dissertations in the field. Since 1980 at least 300 doctoral studies have been carried out delineating its main contours.


The genesis history and main contours of literary Orientalism hinge on the encounter between the west/Europe/ Christendom and Islam/Arabs/Muslims in the military religious, diplomatic political and soica-cultural domains from the seventh century to this day. It was mostly in terms of religious differences and hostility that Europe first learned about Islam and Muslims. The phenomenal rise and spread of Islam in the seventh century with its military and political repercussions made Europe all the more apprehensive. By the eighth century Islam was entrenched in major parts of Asia, Africa, and was knocking at the very doors of Europe at many points from the west through Spain in the centre from Sicily to southern Italy and in the east into the Balkans and southern Russia. It was resolved to check these threats and Islam was perceived as a heresy and Muslims were cast in the role in enemy as a fierce irrational people given to violence and lust. So far the knowledge of Islam in the medieval West R.W. southern brands the period 700-1100 as the age of Ignorance. This negative image is reflected in the polemical writings and literary texts of the day and even of much later date which constitute the corpus of Literary Orientalism.

Clash of Civilizations

The first real literally fact-to-face contact between Europe and the Islamic world was significantly enough by way of military confrontation the Crusades (1096-1271). Though the Crusading movement was essentially a religious movement secular tendencies and forces were at work too including commercial ones. Its cultural and historical significance in forging links between Europe and the Islamic world is immense. As pointed out by Dorothee Metilitzki the Crusades resulted in the Arab influence on a wide range of Frankish activities on military techniques on vocabulary and on food clothing and ornamentation.

More fruitful European interaction with the Islamic world flowed in large measure form the Muslim conquest of Spain in 711 and the presence of Islamic political power there until 1492. as a cultural transplant on European soil and natural bridge between east and west Muslim Spain served as an agent for transmitting basically eastern ideas.

Literary impact of Muslim Spain

This is illustrated best by the influence of the Arabic rhymed verse which was then a rage in Muslim Spain on the love poetry of Guillaume IX (1071-1127) in the Provencal language. His love lyrics have little in common with the conventional Latin and Greek poetry or with the ideals of medieval Church. There are unmistakable similarities between the love lyrics of Muslim Spain and the troubadour and trauvere love poetry of Provence. This is acknowledged by the Italian Giammaria Barbieri in his Dell Origin della Poesia Rimata (1571) and reinforced by the Basque author Estaber Artiaqa and the French writer Sismondi who affirm :

The form and content in the new poetry in Europe
were introduced by the Arab in Spain through
Provence and especially through Catalonia where
they had established themselves for three long

Both Dante and Chaucer seem indebted to the troubadour poetry in grappling with intricacies of love. In his University of Sorbonne doctoral thesis on Chaucer Etienne Sandra provides an appendix of thirty pages of pieces justificatives of trouvere lyrics and their parallels in the works of Chaucer. Likewise the concepts of troubadour courtly love and find their re-echo in Chaucer’s the book of Duchess Franklin’s tale and Troilus and Criseyda. This influence went far beyond Chaucer as a literary critic points out :

Dozens of poem in English from Chaucer through
to the Romantics…where the sentiment of love
the attitude to women the fin amors concepts
could be traced back…to Andalusian Arabic

Cultural Impact

Transmission of learning form the Islamic world then a center of a more advanced culture and richer civilization to Europe scholars have attempted to identify the nature and extent of he influence of the Islamic world on Europe in fields as diverse as mathematics music and other arts and sciences through the acquisition of Islamic knowledge there came about what C.H. Haskins calls the Renaissance of the twelfth century.

Interaction between Europe and the Ottoman Empire

Another major point of contact between Europe and Islam was course the Ottoman empire. The Ottoman forays into Europe started in the mid fourteenth century and in 1699 with the Treaty of Karowitz. The feelings against Ottomans in Europe aroused a degree of hatred against Islam and Muslims a point borne out by their image in Elizabethan literature to which we will turn later. Notwithstanding frequent military clashes the conflict contributed greatly to cultural and social exchange and gradually to a better understanding of Islam and Muslims. This aspect is covered thoroughly in Paul Coles the Ottoman Impact on Europe.

Travel Literature

It was by travel however that Europe learned a great deal about Islam and the Muslims and English travel literature provides significant clues to the changing image. In the middle ages there had been little traffic between England and the Islamic world but with the establishment of the Levant Company in 1581 the volume of traffic increased considerably. Trade links and diplomatic mission gave rise to a steady flow of visitors some of the leading figures being Sir Henry Blount, Fynes Moryson, Thomas Coryat, Robert Shirley, George Sandys and William Lithgow. Among the notable religious travelers were William Biddulph John Cartwright and Rev. Edward terry. That the traveling gentleman then gradually replaced the traveler indicated that the Islamic world was becoming more easily accessible some the commentators perceived the Bedouin life as an instructive contrast to the artificialities of European existence others regarded these people as remnants of a primitive race full of innocence and simplicity they were seen as abstaining from material possessions which would curtail their freedom. Eyles Irwin published in 1780 his travelogue. A series of Adventures in the course of a voyage up the red sea on the coasts of Arabia and Egypt which is all admiration for the domestic felicities of the Islamic life and in 1802 his comic opera the Bedouin was staged in Dublin in most of the travel writings the Arabs were depicted as examples of the Noble Savage.


Acknowledgements xi
Preface xiii
Introduction 1
Chapter 1
Samples of Literary Orientalism
writers works and Critical Studies
Addison Joseph45
Arnold, Matthew 46
Beckford, William 48
Blake, William 53
Browing, Robert 55
Burton, Richard F.56
Byron, Lord 59
Carlyle, Thomas 71
Chaucer, Geoffrey73
Coleridge, S.T77
Congreve, William 79
Conrad, Joseph 80
Defoe, Daniel 82
Dryden, John 84
Eliot, T.S 86
Flecker, J.E 87
Forster, E.M 88
Goldsmith, Oliver 92
Hunt, Leigh 93
Johnson, Samuel 94
Jones, Sir William 98
Joyce, James104
Keats, John 106
Kipling, Rudyard 107
Landor, W.S 109
Lessing, Doris 110
Marlowe, Christopher 111
Massinger, Philip 117
Milton, John 121
Montagu, Lady Mary Wortley123
Moore, Thomas 127
Peele, George 130
Poe, Edger Allen 131
Pope, Alexander 133
Scott, Sir Walter 134
Shakespeare, William 135
Shelley, P.B 150
Southey, Robert 154
Spenser, Edmund 158
Tennyson, Alfred 161
Thackeray, William M. 164
Wilde, Oscar165
Wordsworth, William 167
Yeats, W.B 169
Chapter 2
Critical Books on Literary Orientalism 171
Chapter 3
Articles/Conference Presentations
on literary Orientalism
Chapter 4
Doctoral Dissertations on
on Literary Orientalism
Chapter 5
Role of the Arabian Nights in the
Development of Literary Orientalism
Chapter 6
Role of the Oriental tales in
the Development of Literary Orientalism
Sample Pages

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