Fabulous Orients: Fictions of the East in England 1662-1785

Paperback | November 13, 2007

byRos BallasterAs told byRos Ballaster

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Narrative moves. Stories migrate from one culture to another, over vast distances sometimes, but their path is often difficult to trace and obscured by time. Fabulous Orients looks at the traffic of narrative between Orient and Occident in the eighteenth century, and challenges the assumptionthat has dominated since the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism (1978) that such traffic is always one-way. Eighteenth-century readers in the West came to draw their mental maps of oriental territories and distinctions between them from their experience of reading tales 'from' the Orient. In this proto-colonial period the English encounter with the East was largely mediated through the consumption of material goods such as silks, indigo, muslin, spices, or jewels, imported from the East, together with the more 'moral' traffic of narratives about the East, both imaginary andethnographic. Through analyses of fictional representations (including travellers' accounts, letter narratives such as Letters Writ by a Turkish Spy, and popular sequences of tales such as the Arabian Nights Entertainments) of four oriental territories (Persia, Turkey, China and India), RosBallaster demonstrates the ways in which the East came to be understood as a source of story, a territory of fable and narrative. Fabulous Orients is structured according to territory rather than genre. Each section opens by re-narrating an oriental story in which a feminine character serves to 'figure' western desire for the territory she represents: the courtesan queen of the Ottoman seraglio Roxolana; the riddling Chineseprincess Turandocte; and the illusory sati of India, Canzade. The book goes on to explore the range of fabulous writings relating to each territory in order to illustrate how certain narrative tropes can come to dominate its representation: the conflict between the male look and female speech stagedin the seraglio in the case of Turkey and Persia, the inauthenticity and/or dullness associated with China and its products such as porcelain, and the illusory dreams that are woven in the space of India and associated with its textile industries. This is the first book-length study of the oriental tale to appear for almost a century. Informed by recent historiographical and literary re-assessments of western constructions of the East, it develops an original argument about the use of narrative as a form of sympathetic and imaginativeengagement with otherness, a disinvestment of the self rather than a confident expression of colonial or imperial ambition.

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Narrative moves. Stories migrate from one culture to another, over vast distances sometimes, but their path is often difficult to trace and obscured by time. Fabulous Orients looks at the traffic of narrative between Orient and Occident in the eighteenth century, and challenges the assumptionthat has dominated since the publication of ...

Born in Bombay, India, in 1962, Ros Ballaster has had an abiding interest in eastern culture and narrative. She was a visiting Fellow at Harvard University 1988-89; Lecturer in English Literature at University of East Anglia 1989-1993; and Leverhulme Major Research Fellow 2000-2003. She is currently College and University Fellow in En...

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Format:PaperbackDimensions:422 pages, 8.5 × 5.43 × 0.86 inPublished:November 13, 2007Publisher:Oxford University PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0199234299

ISBN - 13:9780199234295

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Table of Contents

1. Narrative moves1.1. Dinarzade, the second string1.2. The state of narrative2. Shape shifting: oriental tales2.1. Fadlallah and Zemroude, transmigratory desires2.2. The framed sequence2.3. Travellers' tales2.4. Fictional letters2.5. Histories2.6. Heroic drama2.7. A passion for tales3. Tales of the seraglio: Turkey and Persia3.1. Roxolana: the loquacious courtesan3.2. Speaking likenesses: Turkey and Persia3.3. Loquacious women I: staging the Orient3.4. Loquacious women II: narrating the Orient3.5. Speculative men I: spies and correspondents3.6. Speculative men II: court secrets3.7. 'Fabulous and Romantic': the Embassy Letters and the Sultan's Tale4. 'Bearing Confucius' morals to Britannia's ears': China4.1. Turandocte: the riddling princess4.2. Chinese whispers4.3. Orphans and absolutism: tragedies of state4.4. Empires of Dulness4.5. Narrative transmigrations4.6. Chinese letters of reason4.7. Madness and civilization5. 'Dreams of men awake': India5.1. Canzade: the illusory sati5.2. India as illusion5.3. 'The dreaming priest': Aureng-Zebe5.4. The treasures of the East: Indian tales5.5. Tales of India: weaving illusions5.6. The Indian fable: rational animals5.7. Waking from the dream6. Epilogue: Romantic revisions of the Orient

Editorial Reviews

`rich and wide-ranging account of Restoration and eighteenth-century fictions of the East... Critically adroit and historically nuanced... brilliant discussions'Tom Keymer