Romantic Orientalism

I’m taking this opportunity to post the syllabus-in-progress for “Romantic Orientalism,” a graduate course scheduled for Spring (May-August) 2016 at the University of Waterloo. Feedback is welcome, and prospective students should feel free to get in touch.

The provisional course description read:

This course will examine the formal and imaginative innovations the “Oriental tale” afforded Romantic writers and readers, from William Beckford’s scandalous novel Vathek to the rise of the “metrical romance,” which quickly became the one of the era’s most popular poetic genres. Romantic writers took Orientalist caricatures as an occasion to proffer their readers indulgent fantasies, but also used the genre to think through the problems attendant upon the British empire’s increasingly global colonial efforts. Often the collaboration between literary and political aspects of Orientalism was more overt. Byron’s “Turkish” tales, for example, can be read as the wildly popular poems that made him famous, but Byron’s death in the Greek wars of independence, while preparing an attack on an Ottoman stronghold, is a different kind of text altogether. We will conclude with Mary Shelley’s The Last Man, a novel that imagines humanity’s future extinction as a direct outcome of European interventionist wars in Turkey. In addition to novels by Beckford and Shelley and tales in verse by Byron, Moore, Southey, and Landon, we will examine issues and questions in postcolonial theory, the history of religion, and the theory of the secular.

The reading list is currently [updated April 2016]:
4 May, Introductions—Orientalism, Religion, Secularism: first-day excerpts (see below): short passages from Jonathan Z. Smith, Tomoko Masuzawa, and Gil Anidjar; Thomas DeQuincey, from Confessions of an English Opium Eater (1821)

11 May, Abyssinian Maids and Subaltern Women: S.T. Coleridge, “Kubla Khan” (1797/1816); Letitia Elizabeth Landon, “The Indian Bride” (1824); Felicia Hemans, “The Indian City” (1828); Edward Said, introduction to Orientalism; Gayatri Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?”

18 May, Philology, Comparative Religion, and Anglo-Indian Poetry:
William Jones, “Hymn to Narayana” (1785); “The Third Anniversary Discourse, On the Hindus” (1786); Anna Maria Jones, “Adieu to India” (1793); Maurice Olender, The Languages of Paradise, ch. 1

25 May, Language, Exoticism and Spectacle: William Beckford, Vathek (1786), first half

1 June, Orientalism and Gothic: William Beckford, Vathek, second half; Srinivas Aravamudan, Tropicopolitans p. 1-10 and 214-229

8 June, Home/Empire: Elizabeth Hamilton, Letters of a Hindoo Rajah (1796); Ann Mellor, “Romantic Orientalism Begins at Home”

15 June, The Harem and “Liberation” 1: Lord Byron, The Giaour (1813); listen to Child Ballad 53 (Lord Bateman) by Jean Ritchie and Chris Wood; Saba Mahmood, Politics of Piety, ch. 1

22 June, The Harem and “Liberation” 2: Lord Byron, Don Juan (1819-24), cantos 1 and 5; Jennifer Sarha, “The Sultan’s Self Shan’t Carry Me’: Negotiations of Harem Fantasies in Byron’s Don Juan”

29 June, Imperialism and Intervention: Don Juan, cantos 6, 7, and 8; listen: Byron and Nathan, Hebrew Melodies; Caroline Franklin, “‘Some Samples of the Finest Orientalism’: Byronic Philhellenism and Proto-Zionism at the Time of the Congress of Vienna”

6 July, Liberalism and the Political Novel: Mary Shelley, The Last Man (1826), first half; Ranita Chatterjee, “Our Bodies, Our Catastrophes: Biopolitics in Mary Shelley’s The Last Man”

13 July, Imperialism, Intervention, Extinction: The Last Man, 2nd half; Alan Bewell, Romanticism and Colonial Disease ch. 7

20 July, End-of-term mini-conference: presentations of work in progress

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