Orientalism  

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“For any European during the nineteenth century – and I think one can say this almost without qualification – Orientalism was such a system of truths, truths in Nietzsche’s sense of the word. It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric.” -- Edward W. Said, Orientalism pp. 203-4


"As early as Napoleon's campaigns into Egypt the Orient fascinated Europe. It was Vivant Denon's Travels in Upper and Lower Egypt that would kick start Egyptomania." --Sholem Stein

Image:Turkish Bath by Ingres.jpg
"Le Bain turc," (Turkish Bath) by J.A.D. Ingres, 1862
Image:Musk, Hashish and Blood, a French language collection of tales by Hector France,.jpg
Musk, Hashish and Blood (1886) is a French language collection of tales by Hector France "The adventures of a modern man among the cruel men and the passionate women of Algiers," reads the jacket copy of the pulpy paperback. Orientalist imagery of veiled temptresses and sword-wielding hunks abound.

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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.
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Train wreck at Montparnasse (October 22, 1895) by Studio Lévy and Sons.

Orientalism is the study of Near and Far Eastern societies and cultures, languages and peoples by Western scholars. It can also refer to the imitation or depiction of aspects of Eastern cultures in the West by writers, designers and artists.

In the former meaning, the term Orientalism has come to acquire negative connotations in some quarters and is interpreted to refer to the study of the East by Westerners shaped by the attitudes of the era of European imperialism in the 18th and 19th centuries. When used in this sense, it implies old-fashioned and prejudiced outsider interpretations of Eastern cultures and peoples. This viewpoint was most famously articulated and propagated by Edward Said in his controversial 1978 book Orientalism, which was critical of this scholarly tradition and of modern scholars including Princeton University professor Bernard Lewis.

Contents

Depictions of the Orient in art and literature

exoticism, stereotypes of Arabs and Muslims, stereotypes of Asians

Depictions of Islamic "Moors" and "Turks" (imprecisely named Muslim groups of North Africa and West Asia) can be found in Medieval, Renaissance, and Baroque art. But it was not until the 19th century that "Orientalism" in the arts became an established theme. In these works the myth of the Orient as exotic and decadently corrupt is most fully articulated. Such works typically concentrated on Near-Eastern Islamic cultures. Artists such as Eugène Delacroix and Jean-Léon Gérôme painted many depictions of Islamic culture, often including lounging odalisques, and stressing lassitude and visual spectacle. When Jean Auguste Dominique Ingres, director of the French Académie de peinture painted a highly-colored vision of a turkish bath (illustration, right), he made his eroticized Orient publicly acceptable by his diffuse generalizing of the female forms, who might all have been of the same model. If his painting had simply been retitled "In a Paris Brothel," it would have been far less acceptable. Sensuality was seen as acceptable in the exotic Orient. This orientalizing imagery persisted in art into the early 20th century, as evidenced in Matisse's orientalist nudes. In these works the "Orient" often functions as a mirror to Western culture itself, or as a way of expressing its hidden or illicit aspects. In Gustave Flaubert's novel Salammbô ancient Carthage in North Africa is used as a foil to ancient Rome. Its culture is portrayed as morally corrupting and suffused with dangerously alluring eroticism. This novel proved hugely influential on later portrayals of ancient Semitic cultures.

The use of the orient as an exotic backdrop continued in the movies for instance in many movies with Rudolph Valentino. Later the rich Arab in robes became a more popular theme, especially during the oil crisis of the 1970s. In the 1990s the Arab terrorist became a common villain figure in Western movies.

Examples

Literature

Orientalist literature

Opera, ballets, musicals

Orchestral works

Shorter musical pieces

Theatre

Painting

Photography

Films

Comics

See also

Age of Exploration




Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Orientalism" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on original research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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