Orientalism in the
What is Orientalism?
Originally the study by Western scholars of the
Near and Far East (its culture, society,
 Employed in opposition to “Occidental” culture
 In late 20th century, a term introduced by
Edward Said to describe the historical and
ideological process whereby false images of and
myths about the Eastern or “oriental” world have
been constructed by the West. Important for the
development of Post Colonial Studies.
Edward Said
 Said
focuses his attention on the interplay
between the "Occident" and the "Orient."
 The ‘Occident’ is his term for the West
(England, France, and the United States),
and the ‘Orient’ is the term for the romantic
and misunderstood Middle East and Far
According to Said, the West has created a
dichotomy, between the reality of the East and
the romantic notion of the "Orient:
• The Middle East and Asia are depicted with
prejudice and racism.
• Seen as backward and ignorant of their own
history and culture.
• To fill this void, the West has created a culture
and history for them. The study of the Orient,
and also the political and cultural imperialism of
Europe in the East rests on this framework.
Edward Said andOrientalism
According to Edward Said: “...that by Orientalism
I mean several things, all of them, in my opinion,
interdependent. The most readily accepted
designation for Orientalism is an academic one,
and indeed the label still serves in a number of
academic institutions. Anyone who teaches,
writes about, or researches the Orient--and this
applies whether the person is an anthropologist,
sociologist, historian, or philologist--either in its
specific or its general aspects, is an Orientalist,
and what he or she says or does is Orientalism.
Said continues…
 Related
to this academic tradition, whose
fortunes, transmigrations, specializations,
and transmissions are in part the subject
of this study, is a more general meaning
for Orientalism. Orientalism is a style of
thought based upon ontological and
epistemological distinctions made between
‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the
Said continues…
Thus a very large mass of writers, among who are poets,
novelists, philosophers, political theorists, economists,
and imperial administrators, have accepted the basic
distinction between East and West as the starting point
for elaborate accounts concerning the Orient, its people,
customs, "mind," destiny, and so on. . . . the
phenomenon of Orientalism as I study it here deals
principally, not with a correspondence between
Orientalism and Orient, but with the internal consistency
of Orientalism and its ideas about the Orient . . despite
or beyond any correspondence, or lack thereof, with a
"real" Orientalism. “(Orientalism, New York: Vintage,
1979, 1-3,5. )
Map of Ottoman Empire from 1300-1700
Others who perpetuated and modified the images of Turkey, the Ottoman
and Persian Empires, and other Islamic milieux in eighteenth Britain were:
John Dryden (late 17th century: Conquest of Granada, Bajazet, and other
Antoine Galland, French translation of the folktale cycle known in English as
One Thousand and One Nights, or The Arabian Nights (1704-17)
François Pétis de la Croix, Mille et un jours, contes persanes (1710-12)
Daniel Defoe, in Roxana: Or, the Fortunate Mistress (1724), has his
protagonist wear Turkish clothing as a disguise
Montesquieu, via translations of his influential Persian Letters (1721)
Johnson and Rasselas (1759)
Beckford and Vathek (1786)
Sir William Eton, A Survey of the Turkish Empire (1799)
French travel literature about the Levant (in French, which most upper-class
Britons would understand)
Images that populated the writings of many eighteenth-century British
writers: Decadent sultans wealthy beyond imagination. Lustful, tyrannical,
predatory men. Passive, secretive, voluptuous women. Ferocious and
arbitrary justice. The mystery and irrationality of Islam.
Many writers added to these common images by their travel
narratives and letters, or their flights of fancy:
Lady Mary Wortley Montagu writes about her travels to
Turkey in 1717 in letters that are published posthumously in
1763 as the Turkish Embassy Letters.
Penelope Aubin publishes her romance The Strange
Adventures of the Count de Vinevil and His Family in 1721.
Lady Craven writes a collection of letters about her travels in
A Journey through the Crimea to Constantinople in 1789.
Olaudah Equiano publishes his Interesting Narrative, in 1789
part of which deals with his reception in and observations on
Although Orientalism did not
become a well-defined style
until the 19th century, its
roots can be traced to a
general love of exotica in the
18th century.
Jean Etienne Liotard
Swiss pastel painter and
painted women dressed
in Turkish costume
chose to retain the
Turkish dress and beard
that he had adopted while
Jean Etienne Liotard
Woman with a Tamburine
Luigi Mayer (c. 17551803)
 travelled through the
Ottoman Empire
between 1776 and
 sketched and painted
landscapes, ancient
monuments, and the
Nile and its
Women of Caramania 1803
Luigi Mayer
Giovanni Batista Tiepolo 1696-1770)
Painted a series of
frescos at the residence
of the Prince
Archbishop of Wurzburg
that included
personifications of the
four continents on the
ceiling of the staircase
in the Kaisersaal.
Pays tribute to the
Prince-Bishop. He is
honoured by the gods
of Olympus, and Fame,
personified by a woman
holding his portrait aloft,
while allegories of the
four continents cluster
Apollo and the Continents 1752-53
Fresco, Stairwell of the Residenz, Würzburg
Apollo and the Continents (America) 1752-53 Fresco
Stairwell of the Residenz, Würzburg
Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809)
A Young Woman in Turkish
Costume Seated Playing with
a Cage-Bird
Joseph-Marie Vien (1716-1809)
Sultane Reine
Joseph-Marie Vien
Der Sultan
Sultane Noir (M. Castagnier)
Standard Bearer (M. Barbault)

Orientalism in the 18th century