Arabian Nights Shaping of Western Dissertation

  • Length: 14 pages
  • Sources: 20
  • Subject: Literature
  • Type: Dissertation
  • Paper: #16994703

Excerpt from Dissertation :

This will reveal the bias of the West and how it has come to embrace the stereotypical imagery and ideas of the Oriental.

In conclusion, the essay will briefly recount the points made throughout the essay overall, but will also offer analytical ideas as to how, understanding Orientalism as a product of the colonial and post colonial West, how the East and the West might move forward and achieve the cultural equality necessary to build a safe and productive global community and environment of co-existence through mutual respect, understanding, and equality.


Literature Review

It is only in conjunction with other works which specifically address the subject of Orientalism that one begins to identify markers of Orientalism in Captain Sir Richard Burton's interpretation of the Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night (Burton, ). Works by authors like Edward W. Said, who spent much of his life studying and analyzing Orientalism; are tangential to the broad range of perspectives that help the reader of Thousand and One Nights understand Burton's need to appeal to a Western audience, his lack of cultural knowledge -- even though he was experienced in travel among the cultures of the Orient. Burton's interpretation is through Western eyes, and there is much that is misconstrued, especially if we do not know the author himself, and his motivations for presenting themes and characters in the way that he does.

Said, as an expert on the subject of Orientalism, has much to contribute to this essay, but that does not mean that we accept Said's conclusions without question, or the other contributing Orientalists, because, having read the stories of Thousand and One Nights, we might not agree with all the different views of the Orientalists as it pertains to Burton's interpretation of the stories in the books.

This literature review is a compilation of the existing works by different authors in support of the Orientalist's theories and conclusions as they might be applied to Burton's Nights. Also, existing works, by authors who challenge Said's conclusions, and those of other Orientalists. These authors provide us with the ideas that help to create a broader perspective, and to decide if Burton was indeed attempting to influence his reading audience in a way that presented the culture of Arabs and Muslims in a negative way, effectively stereotyping Arabs and Muslims as inferior to Westerners.

This list may be added to, and some works replaced depending upon the availability of the resource material.

Said, Edward W. (1979). Orientalism, Vintage Books, New York, NY. This book might be called the premier work on Orientalism, and it does as much to help the reader understand Orientalism, as it provides provoking thoughts that might cause the reader to challenge certain of Said's ideas. In this book, Said focuses on Western literature and authors, novelists and poets alike, such as Balfour and Cromer, who wrote in colonial and post colonial periods and covered subject matters, creative or otherwise, that involved their own impressions of the Orient, and especially their impressions of the Islamist or Muslim.

Said contends that the language of the colonial and post colonial, nineteenth century novelists, poets, and authors was purposeful in creating negative stereotypes. Said writes, "Knowledge of the Orient, because generated out of strength, in a sense creates the Orient, the Oriental, and his world. In Cromer's and Balfour's language the Orient the Oriental is depicted as something one judges (as in a court of law), something one studies and depicts (as in a curriculum), something one disciplines (as in a school or prison), something one illustrates (as in a zoological manual). The point is that in each of these cases the Oriental is contained and represented by dominating frameworks (p. 39)."

Said, Edward W. (1993). Culture and Imperialism, Vintage Books, New York, NY. This book follows Said's Orientalism, and it further explores that subject in relationship to Western imperialism, and from the political perspective and advantage as the colonizer of the Orient.

Said explains it this way, "Yet it bears repeating that no matter how apparently complete the dominance of an ideology or social system, there are always going to be parts of the social experience that it does not cover and control. From these parts very frequently comes opposition, both self-conscious and dialectical. This is not as complicated as it sounds. Opposition to a dominant structure arises out of a perceived, perhaps even militant awareness on the part of the individual and groups outside and inside it that, for example, certain of its policies are wrong. As the major studies of Gordon K. Lewis (Slavery, Imperialism, and Freedom) and Robin Blackburn (the Overthrow of Colonial Slavery 1776-1848) show, an extraordinary amalgam of metropolitan individuals and movements -- millenarians, revivalists, do-gooders, political radicals, cynical planters, and canny politicians - contributed to the decline of and end of the slave trade by the 1840s. And far from there being a single unopposed British colonial interest running directly from say, the Hanoverians to Queen Victoria, historical research that might be called revisionist or oppositional has shown a variegated contest of interests. Scholars like Lewis Blackburn, Bill Davidson, Terrence Ranger, and E.P. Thompson, among others, premised their work on the paradigm given by the cultural and political resistance within imperialism (p. 240)."

In other words, there is the "resistance within imperialism" that disallowed the notion of the Oriental as an equal, a partner, or even as the rightful owners or heirs of colonized space. It is, therefore, possible to imagine how Orientalism would flow from the cultural and political perceptions to be reflected in the literature, the Western interpretations of Oriental culture and life.

Rice, Edward (2001). Captain Sir Richard Francis Burton: A Biography, De Capo Press,

Warraq, Ibn (2007). Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism, Prometheus Books, New York, NY. In this book, Ibn perhaps reveals his self when he chooses not on the basis of Said's arguments or points to challenge certain of Said's arguments; but chooses instead to challenge as many points of argument or conclusions as Said posits, demonstrating Ibn's own brand of "resistance." If at first glance one is taken aback by the fact that Ibn, a scholar of Middle Eastern studies, and Zipes, Jack (1991). Arabian Nights: The Marvels and Wonders of the Thousand and One Nights, Penguin Books Ltd., USA, 1991.



Said, Orientalism (1979) p. 19 -- Orientialism -- "intellectual authority over the Orient within Western culture."

Said, Orientalism (1979) p. "To criticize orientalism, as I did in my book, is in effect to be a supporter of Islamism or Muslim fundamentalism (p. 331)."

Said, Orientalism (1979) "But more than this, since the middle of the eighteenth century, there had been two principal elements in the relation between East and West. One was a growing systematic knowledge in Europe about the Orient, knowledge reinforced by the colonial encounter as well as by the widespread interest in the alien and unusual, exploited by the developing sciences of ethnology, comparative anatomy, philology, and history; furthermore, to this systematic knowledge was added a sizable body of literature produced by novelists, poets, translators, and gifted travelers. The other feature of the Oriental-European relations was that Europe was always in a position of strength, not to say domination. There is no way of putting this euphemistically. True, the relationship of strong to weak could be disguised or mitigated, as when Balfour acknowledged the "greatness" of the Oriental civilizations. But the essential relationship, on political, cultural, and even religious grounds, was seen -- in the West, which is what concerns us here -- to be one between a strong and a weak partner.

Many terms were used to express the relation: Balfour and Cromer typically used several. The Oriental is irrational, depraved (fallen), childlike, "different"; thus, the European is rational, virtuous, mature, "normal." But the way of enlivening the relationship was everywhere to stress the fact that the Oriental lived in a different but thoroughly organized world of his own, a world with its own national, cultural, and epistemological boundaries and principles of internal coherence. Yet what gave the Oriental's its intelligibility identity was not of his own efforts but rather the whole complex series of knowledgeable manipulations by which the Orient was identified by the West. Thus, the two features of cultural relationship I have been discussing come together. Knowledge of the Orient, because generated out of strength, in a sense creates the Orient, the Oriental, and his world. In Cromer's and Balfour's language the Orient the Oriental is depicted as something one judges (as in a court of law), something one studies and depicts (as in a curriculum),…

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