“Orientalism”: Meetings of East and West from the Crusades to Postcolonialism





For most of Europe’s post-Roman and premodern history, it had little to offer the more sophisticated economies of the East beyond slaves. Only in the last 300 years has the balance of power shifted. This seminar studies the course of this relationship between Occident and Orient, beginning more or less at the beginning, with the Crusades, and continuing through the end of the Ottoman Empire and the making of the modern Middle East. Attention is paid to the notion of “orient” as it expanded and contracted over the centuries, and the imagined East as much as the real one. Merchants, travelers, scholars, artists, and spies all played roles in a drama that has read alternately as epic, tragedy, comedy, and farce. Until very recently, the Orient had been mostly a Disneyfied romantic mirror for educated Western antimodernism. All that has now changed, and the way in which this history is understood has become even more central. In weekly meetings students discuss the Crusades, the Venetians in the East, learned travel in the 17th century, the Jesuits in and on China, the fantasy Orient of Fischer von Ehrlach and Mozart, Napoléon in Egypt, the Indian Renaissance and Goethe’s East-West Divan, the “Orientalisme” of the French Mediterranean, the Victorians in the late Ottoman East, and Orientalism between the wars. 3 credits.