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Theorizing Orientalism

ENGL 748.401
also offered as: COML 620, NELC 781
Tuesday 12:00-3:00

Since its initial publication, Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) has transformed the field of literary studies as well as any number of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences through its treatment of European imperialism and the politics of cultural production.  Beginning with a study of this text, the course will take stock of the critical scholarship on Said, including feminist and Marxist revisions of his conceptualization of East/West relations and key debates that have ensued.  A central aim of the course will be to study Said's key theoretical influences (i.e. Hegel, Marx, Foucault) and generally overlooked scholars of Orientalism (Schwab, Tibawi) pre-dating or contemporaneous with Said.  We will also consider the influence of Said on the current field of China-related Orientalism at a moment when the term 'postcolonial' is itself giving way to the ‘global Anglophone.’   The course does not attempt to fill in the entire field of postcolonial studies; rather it traces, albeit unevenly, several strands of the legacy and impact of Orientalism. 


The course is structured in three parts: Orientalism and its immediate contexts, 18th and 19th century precursors including key concepts of Oriental despotism, exoticism, and the Asiatic Mode of Production, and contemporary scholarship on Afro-Asian connections with relevance to 20th and 21st century visual culture and political theory. 


Readings to be completed for the first class on Jan. 12:  Edward Said, "Traveling Theory" and "Reflections on Exile" (available on course Canvas site or upon request by email.)

fulfills requirements