U.S. Orientalisms is the first extensive and politicized study of nineteenth century American discourses that helped build an idea of nationhood with control over three "Orients": the "Barbary" Orient; the Orient of Egypt; and the Orient of India. Malini Johar Schueller persuasively argues that current notions about the East can be better understood as latter-day manifestations of the earlier U.S. visions of the Orient refracted variously through millennial fervor, racial-cultural difference, and ideas of Westerly empire.
This book begins with an examination of the literature of the "Barbary" Orient generated by the U.S. Algerian conflict in the late eighteenth century in the works of such writers as Royall Tyler, Susanna Rowson, and Washington Irving. It then moves on to the Near East Orientalist literature of the nineteenth century in light of Egyptology, theories of race, and the growth of missionary fervor in writers such as John DeForest, Maria Susanna Cummins, Herman Melville, Edgar Allan Poe, and Harriet Prescott Spofford. Finally, Schueller considers the Indic Orientalism of the period in the context of Indology, British colonialism, and the push for Asian trade in the United States, focusing particularly on Emerson and Whitman. U.S. Orientalisms demonstrates how these writers strove to create an Orientalism premised on the idea of civilization and empire moving West, from Asia, through Europe, and culminating in the New World.
Schueller draws on the work of Michel Foucault, Edward Said, Homi Bhabha, Rey Chow, and Judith Butler and compellingly demonstrates how a raced, compensatory "Orientalist" discourse of empire was both contested and evoked in the literary works of a wide variety of writers. The book will be of interest to readers in American history, postcolonial studies, gender studies, and literary theory.
Malini Johar Schueller is Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Florida. She is the author of The Politics of Voice: Liberalism and Social Criticism from Franklin to Kingston.
Copyright © 1997, University of Michigan. All rights reserved. Posted April 2001.
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