Arguing with Europe: Eastern Civilization versus Orientalist Exoticism

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Abstract

The French Romantic poet Alphonse de Lamartine travelled to ‘the East’, namely Syria, Palestine and parts of the Balkans, in 1832-33, with his wife and daughter. His account of these travels, the Voyage en Orient, was published in 1835 and went on to become one of the major ‘Eastern’ travelnarratives of the nineteenth century. Edward Said was scathing about it in Orientalism:
What remains of the Orient in Lamartine’s prose is not very substantial at all [...] the sites he has visited, the people he has met, the experiences he has had, are reduced to a few echoes in his pompous generalizations. (Orientalism 179)
I would not dissent from this assessment. But Said was not the first to remark on the nature of Lamartine’s representations of the ‘Orient’. In 1859, twenty-four years after the French poet’s visit to ‘the East’, a young Beiruti poet and journalist, Khalil al-Khūrī, made an Arabic translation and commentary, with some sharp criticisms, of one of the poems included in his Voyage en Orient.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)405-412
Number of pages8
JournalPMLA
Volume132
Issue number2
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 22 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

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