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British Imperialism and culture

The significance of British Imperialism to culture
Sociology Essay

  • Assessment: Analytical exercise
  • Mark: A
  • Year: 2007
  • Wordcount: 2188

This essay contains close readings of
1) De Quincey T., Confessions of an English Opium Eater: The Malay (1822)
2) De Quincey T., Confessions of an English Opium Eater: Oriental Dreams (1822)
3) Coleridge S.T., Christable; Kubla Khan: A Vision; The Pains of Sleep: Kubla Khan (1816)

Tiffin (1995: 95) points out that more than “three quarters of the contemporary world has been directly and profoundly affected by imperialism and colonialism”. With the end of the Napoleonic Wars in 1815, for instance, Britain was left in governing power over 200 million people , of whom a large proportion were Asians (Leask 1996: 235). These political developments went hand in hand with a wave of European artistic and scholarly interest in the cultures and languages of Eastern nations from about the 1760s onwards (Schwab 1996: 294-296). The increased encounter with other cultures, in person and via traveller narratives or cultural artefacts, had a deep impact on Britain’s cultural production.
Romantic poets , for example, adopted the imagery and narratives from these sources and looked to the Orient for creative and sublime inspiration but also with feelings of anxiety. Since language is one form through which thoughts and ideas are represented in a culture (Hall 2003: 1), the aim of this analytical exercise is both, to highlight the role of Romantic poetry in the construction of oriental stereotypes, and also, to investigate its significance in accordance with Said’s notion that the “Orient was almost a European invention” (Said 2004: 329). I will accomplish these aims by examining the discursive strategies employed in Romantic poetry, such as idealization of the Orient, the projection of fantasies and sexual desire as well as the drawing attention to cultural differences and the tendency to represent non-Europeans as the uncivilized and barbaric essential ‘Other’.
According to Hall (2003: 42-43) Foucault is concerned with “the production of knowledge (rather than just meaning)” through a particular discourse. Therefore…

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