The Representation Of Islam And Muslims In Eighteenth Century British Fiction (Edward Said, William Beckford, Lady Mary Pierrepont Wortley Montagu, Mary Shelley)

Maktabi, Anas, Ph.D. Indiana University of Pennsylvania, 2001. 180 pages. Adviser: Hayward, Malcolm. Publication Number: AT 3002450

In the last quarter of this century, scholarship regarding the production of knowledge about the Other has widely flourished. This study investigates the negative portrayals of Arabs and Muslims in selected eighteenth century British fiction by applying Edward Said’s original theories as he formulated them in Orientalism. The frustration of Muslims towards their representation in the West has its roots in historical conflicts between the Islamic East and the Christian West. The literature of the West has served to define, formulate, and indeed exacerbate this hostile relationship. Edward Said has contended that no matter how western writers may differ in style and approach to the Orient, their discourse is monolithically constructed. Recent western critics, however, have argued for a more heterogeneous and contradictory conception of Orientalism. The Letters of Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, the gothic novel Vathek, and a scene with a Turkish merchant in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein have all been cited as examples of texts which break from his Orientalist tradition. This study rejects these recent reevaluations and shows how these texts do follow a monolithic mode of Orientalist representation. Finally, this study concludes that a greater understanding of Islam and the Arab world is necessary for negative representations to come to an end.

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