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  1. Literary analysis today favors a multiplicity of interpretations — more and more "new" readings of well-known poems like Blake's Book of Thel, Wordsworth's Intimations Ode, Coleridge's "Rime of the Ancient Mariner"and "Kubla Khan," Percy Shelley's Alastor, and Keats's "Ode on a Grecian Urn." As they bring new biographical, historical, and literary materials into relation with these texts, critics are coming to accept that there are many meanings in these works, even when some of the interpretations directly oppose some of the others. Romantic Orientalism represents one important body of new literary materials. Choose one or more works from the master list below and consider how knowledge of the Oriental elements in them enriches the reading experience.
  2. A more specific topic is the political interest of Romantic Orientalism, as described in the last three paragraphs of the Overview, in "questions of national identity, cultural difference, the morality of imperialist dominion, and consequent anxiety and guilt concerning such issues." Again, choose one or more works from the master list and read them with attention to these sociopolitical elements.
  3. One way Romantic Orientalist texts are thought to justify British imperialistic domination of non-Western countries is by describing these countries as "backward" or tyrannical in their political and social organization. Consider whether this strategy is at work in the texts selected for this Web site and, if so, how. In what respects might the civilizations featured in these Orientalist texts be seen as superior to the British?
  4. The selections in the Romantic Orientalism Web site tend not to be ambiguous, open-ended, capable of endless interpretation. Almost all of them are relatively simple moral tales, in which, for example, bad characters and actions are clearly bad, whether or not they are punished in the end. In contrast, canonical Romantic poems and fictions are typically thought of as being ambiguous and inconclusive, and thus capable of creating complicated responses in reading. Choose one or more works from the master list and consider how their connections with the relatively simple, straightforward Oriental genre change their interpretive possibilities.

    The following list of the principal Romantic works showing elements of Romantic Orientalism includes all the titles mentioned in the Overview for this Web site and in the headnotes to the individual selections, plus a handful of others.
    • BLAKE — The Little Black Boy (NAEL 8, 2.84), The Tyger (NAEL 8, 2.92), The Book of Thel (NAEL 8, 2.98)
    • WORDSWORTH — The Prelude (specifically the dream of the Arab in book 5, lines 71–141 — NAEL 8, 2.358–59)
    • COLERIDGE — The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (NAEL 8, 2.430), Kubla Khan (NAEL 8, 2.446)
    • BYRON — Childe Harold's Pilgrimage (Spain, Portugal, Albania, and Greece in cantos 1 and 2), four "Oriental tales" of 1813–14 (The Bride of Abydos, The Corsair, Lara, and The Giaour), Manfred (NAEL 8, 2.635), Don Juan (the Greek island episode with Haidee in cantos 2–4 [NAEL 8, 2.697–734] and subsequent adventures in Turkey and Russia, among other places)
    • PERCY SHELLEY — Queen Mab, Alastor (NAEL 8, 2.745), Mont Blanc (NAEL 8, 2.762), Hymn to Intellectual Beauty (NAEL 8, 2.766), Ozymandias (NAEL 8, 2.768), The Indian Girl's Song, Prometheus Unbound (NAEL 8, 2.775)
    • KEATS — Endymion (in part a remaking of P. B. Shelley's Alastor — Greek myth in an Asia Minor setting, with the hero falling in love with an Indian maiden), Isabella (specifically stanza 15 describing the brothers' far-flung business interests), The Eve of St. Agnes (specifically the feast that Porphyro sets out in stanza 30 — NAEL 8, 2.895), Lamia (NAEL 8, 2.909)
    • MARY SHELLEY — Frankenstein

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