Essay Sample on Effect of Orientalism on Romantic Poetry

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Carnegie Mellon University
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Orientalism is an approach about the possibility thats based upon an epistemological and ontological difference between the Orient and Occident. The Orient was almost an idea of the Europeans and core in their civilization and culture. It was viewed as a place of great memories, experience, exotic beings and romance. As much as the West, the Orient idea has a lot of history, tradition, and vocabulary that made it real and present in West.

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Said views Orientalism as a field that serves many academic institutions. According to him, an Orientalist is any person who teaches, studies or writes about the Orient despite their academic background and what they do is orientalism. He believes that the academic and imaginative meanings of Orientalism have changed since the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, he based his work on his third definition that that views Orientalism as a Western way of having authority over the Orient.

He progresses to say that the harsh relationship between Islam and Christianity led to a hostile political relationship between the West and East. According to him, hostility between the two regions was enhanced by Orientalism that presented Christendom as superior and a representation of European domination of the Orient. He associates this Western attitude to the widespread of Islam in the Western world during the fourteenth century, as a threat that represented a lasting trauma in Europe. Also, he emphasizes on limiting Orientalism to the prejudiced Western or Christian study of Islam and the East. He also believes that Western Orientalism has never been a genuine and scholarly study of the East for its sake and its cultural richness.

Romantic poetry

Romantic poetry is poetry done during the romantic era. It originates in Europe during the end of the 18th century. The poetry involved a reaction against prevailing ideas and lasted from approximately from 1800 to 1850. Sentimental poets promoted independence idealism, physical and enthusiastic enthusiasm and interest in the supernatural. They situated themselves in resistance to the request to reasonability about traditional and neoclassical aesthetic statutes to grasp opportunity transformation in their craftsmanship and governmental issues. Sentimental thoughts never disappeared; instead, they were assimilated into statutes of other movements. William Wordsworth, a renowned romantic poet, said that poetry is the super overflow of powerful feelings.'


Said could not refute the effect of Orientalism on Romantic poetry. He agrees that Orientalism was key in shaping romantic poetry and quotes it is difficult nonetheless to separate such institutions of the Orient as MoZarts from the range of preromantic and Romantic representation of the Orient as exotic locale since popular Orientalism attained a considerable vogue intensity during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century.' However, he doubts the previous investment of William Beckford, Byron, Thomas Moore and Goethe in Oriental; he accepts that it might have been a greater amount like an outlet with their worry over Gothic tales, pseudo-medieval idylls, visions for brutal quality and pitilessness. Sensuality, promise, terror, sublimity, pleasure, heightening energy: the turn similarly as an assumption in the pre-Romantic, pyrotechnical orientalist creative ability of the late-eighteenth-century Europe might have been a chameleon in nature called (adjectivally) 'Oriental (Said, pp 118-19).

However, those sentimental enthusiasms toward the Gothic need no immediate connection to those turn. It is specifically identified with a restoration about enthusiasm toward medieval chapel architecture, which itself may be in a roundabout way identified with oriental construction modeling. Chateaubriand makes it clear that the poets and novelists of the age required a common come back at the conduct from claiming their progenitors when presenting dungeons, specters, castles and Gothic chapels under their fiction in his The Genius of Christianity (1802). Therefore Said mixes those sentimental writers' inclination should be medievalism for their sincere proclivity will Orientalize.

In the start of the 19th century, in particular, the West was very much interested in images of the East that exaggerated certain qualities of the countries and people of the Middle East and the Far East, creating a fantastical and often untrue vision of these cultures. Many depictions of the East were paradoxical. The East is beautiful and full of marvels yet dangerous. It is something to be admired yet also to be scorned. It is primitive yet a source of fresh ideas. These contrasting points in the depiction of oriental landscapes reflect the problematic view the West had in the East as a magical land full of barbaric and stagnant cultures. Both poems are written from the perspective of a Westerner who has never been to the East and is relying on a second-hand source of information.Its a poem by Lord Byron, someone who spent much time in the Ottoman Empire and must have seen the true reality of the country writes The Giaour from the overly romantic perspective of a Westerner who has never seen the Middle East. This is echoed between line 21 and 33 of The rose and the nightingale while describing the shores of Greece. Before coming to Greece Lord Byron, like most Westerners would have had second-hand accounts and the fairy-tales that came from the Middle East, such as the Arabian Nights, as the only source of knowledge. However, by using the Rose and the Nightingale as examples, the tendency of Westerners to group all of the Orient as one type of area is seen. This tale is Arabic and has no connection to Greece whatsoever. Also, his description of Greece is highly contorted to suite his purposes and is highly exaggerated. Line 7 describes Greece to have Fair clime! Where every season smiles while in reality, Greece is a country with a Mediterranean climate, its winter season is wet and occasionally snowy hence not a country where every season smiles.

This reflects a tendency in the Western reader to view the entirety of the Orient as having the same geography even when what is being discussed is completely different countries. Thus we see the tendency in Orientalist painters to depict Istanbul only in the summer, with the same tones used to when painting the deserts of Arabia, despite Istanbul being most of the year the same temperature as or even colder than, say, England. Of course in Byrons case, it seems most likely that he is using this sort of language in describing Greece because Orientalism was the a la mode of the time, sold well and brought much fame to Lord Byron.

Coleridge, as a man never been out of Europe, writes Kubla Khan after reading the travels of Marco Polo, which is a highly disputed text and which some scholars defend is based on hearsay and not actual travel (Frances Wood). Thus he is seen repeating many of the stereotypes that were prevalent at the time. He writes the landscape to be A savage place (Line 14), echoing the widespread thought of the people of the East being inherently more barbaric than Westerners. This is seen in examples such as William Shakespeares Othello, where the Moor Othello is depicted as being brutish despite all his education. Coleridge also takes the historical fact of Kublai Khan, his land, and yurt and makes it into something more exotic than it is. He does this by purposefully renaming them, so they sound more marvelous, a stately pleasure-dome, instead of a yurt; Xanadu instead of Shangdu; Kubla Khan instead of Kublai Khan (line 1-2).

This shows the tendency to exaggerate the marvels of the East, making it out to be more mysterious and magical. Another curious detail is, directly after the description of Xanadu, the vision of the damsel with a dulcimer an Abyssinian maid (line 37-39). The way that Coleridge lumps this figure from Ethiopia with the ones from Middle-Asia shows again the tendency for Westerners to over-generalize vast areas of the East to have similar qualities. In this case, the Ethiopian woman is placed as merely another example of exoticism. The face that she has very little to do with the scenery in the previous parts of the poem seem to be disregarded.

The average Western man viewed the East as stagnant and barbaric, movements like the Romantics found value in its vast differences from Western life and used it as a source of innovation. The Romantics were a movement looking to the alternate, the irrational and the new and thus were very interested in the East. They were well versed in eastern philosophy and were reading the religious texts of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Islam Particularly Mystic texts such as the Bhagavad Gita, the Rubiat and the Mesnevi. While writing the oriental in the poems of Kubla Khan and The Giaour, the poets use the other quality of these lands as an aid to talk about their original ideas.

In Kubla Khan, the oriental landscape used as a new way to look at a much different subject, the subconscious. The psychological curiosity, in this case, is the action of Coleridge falling into a drug-induced sleep after reading the tales of Marco Polo and from this text being inspired to dream and ultimately to create a poem. What is unusual in this depiction of inspiration is that Coleridge does not use typical Western examples of inspiration. Instead of the Nine Muses visiting him in his sleep, he thrust into an oriental, endemic, gothic landscape. This coincides with his image of how inspiration is made not bestowed by a transcendental god-like figure but instead coming from inside the poet, perhaps, from a place in a Post-Freudian society call the subconscious.

The landscape makes a repetition of this deepness all throughout the poem. It is also curious that when he wants to explain something raw, basic in the human brain; he chooses to use the imagery of primordial forests. He says And here were many forests ancient as the hills, within which a single figure thats often of a woman crying for her demon lover.' With this one line many things are triggered, the image of the sensual oriental women that is a cliche of oriental literature (showing itself even in The Giaour in the figure of Leila), woman as emotional wailing, sinful and lustful for her demon lover. The choice of this figure in this landscape reflects our unrestrained nature of our subconscious, much more willing to be hedonistic, emotional and irrational.

Lord Byron, on the other hand, is turning to the East to talk about the recent French Revolution and its application in other countries in his time. He uses Romantic Orientalist imagery to talk about these revolutionary ideas in a way that will gain sympathy from the Western reader. He depicts Greece as a beautiful heavenly land which is marred by tyrants who treat it cruelly, trample, brute-like, oer each flower, So curst the tyrants that destroy! In later lines Greece is depicted as dead because of this tyranny, echoing what is done to Leila by Hassan. Thus we see that Leila is a representation of Greece and Hassan of a tyrant, in this situation, the Ottoman Empire which has conquered the peninsula. The Giaour, our Byronic hero who has fallen in love with Leila, is most likely a fond representation of the Greek revolutionary forces. This is because, at the start of the Greek nationalist movement, many Europeans were disinterested in this cause. Through the art and writings of Philhellene such as Lord Byron and Eugene Delacroix, the movement was popularized.

There is a clear repetition of themes in the descriptions of Eastern lands, even when they are as far away from each other as Xanadu and Greece. The tendency of writers to use prevalent stereotypes created by second-h...

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