Orientalism, exoticism or Oriental fantasy is a term that refers to the geography and culture of large parts of Asia and North Africa, and
Eastern Europe. From a British point of view, Orientalism connotes foreignness (estraneità) and it usually refers to everything east of the English Channel.
In literary history, Romantic Orientalism is the use of Asian and African elements – places, names, historical and legendary people, religions, philosophies, art, architecture, interior decoration, costume – in the writings of the British Romantics.
The Orientalism of British Romantic literature has roots (radici) in the first decade of the eighteenth century, with the translations of The Arabian Nights into English that inspired writers to develop (sviluppare) a new genre, the Oriental tale, of which Samuel Johnson’s History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia (1759) is main example.
Romantic Orientalism continues to develop into the nineteenth century, with another component of Romanticism, Literary Gothicism. Some of the most important “Gothic” authors wrote Oriental tales mixing exotic settings, supernatural events, characters, behaviours, and emotions. Gothicism and Orientalism provided (fornirono) imaginary characters, situations, and stories as a sort of escape from the reader’s everyday reality.
The Romantic Period in
is now recognized as a time of travel and exploration all over the world, and development (sviluppo) of imperialist ideologies.
Nowadays (oggigiorno) the cultural, political, commercial, and aesthetic dimensions of the growth (sviluppo) of Romanticism and Orientalism assumes the value of forerunners (precursori) of British colonial anxiety.
In 1978 Edward Said wrote Orientalism (1978) a work that provided an exhaustive (esaustiva) analysis about the idea of the orient in western culture. The West created a series of oppositions between the colonizer and the colonized which supplied (fornì) a moral justification for the colonial enterprise (impresa). The east is considered the other, with a subject position in the British context. Also Gayatri Spivak and Jenny Sharpe made a similar analysis considering the relationship between colonial ideology and the growth (crescita) of British feminism in Victorian England evident in writers like Jane Austen and Charlotte Brönte. The same lower classe in
are seen as others: they share (condividono) the characteristics of the colonized and require similar strategies of control.