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A Study of Romantic Orientalism in Shelley’s the Revolt of Islam

Author WangXiaoZuo
Tutor LiZeng
School Northeast Normal University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords Shelley The Revolt of Islam Romantic Orientalism Duality
Type Master's thesis
Year 2011
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Shelley is an important poet of British Romanticism, and his poems are always praised highly by readers. The study on Shelley’s poetry mainly concentrates on his lyric poetry such as Ode to the West Wind, To a Skylark and The Cloud. However, his The Revolt of Islam has received less attention. This thesis attempts to discuss Shelley’s Romantic Orientalism as manifested in The Revolt of Islam. It will reveal Shelley’s views and attitudes to the Orient by dealing with the characters and settings in this long poem. At the same time, it will also explore the causes that led to such writing from the aspects of the historical background, culture, his life and personality.The whole thesis consists of six parts, namely an introduction, four chapters and a conclusion. The introduction summarizes the contemporary studies of The Revolt of Islam at home and abroad and presents the central argument of the thesis, the research methods and the significance. This thesis will argue Shelley’s Romantic Orientalism in The Revolt of Islam. Based on the analysis of detail, Shelley’s attitude towards Orient is obviously dual. This thesis can enrich and expand the study of Shelley.Chapter One gives a definition to the Orient, and points out that its meaning, with the transition of age, changes from the original geographical location to that of the politics or culture. Next, it introduces the Oriental Renaissance in the Romantic time. Romantic poets pay attention to the remote and mysterious Orient. They respectively have their own understanding of Orient. At last, it provides Shelley’s personal background and the creative process of The Revolt of Islam.Chapter Two analyzes the Romantic Orientalism in The Revolt of Islam in terms of the characters: the main characters in this poem—the tyrant Othman, Laon and Cythna, and their personalities. As a ruler, Othman is neither wise nor kind. Cruelty, indifference and cowardice are main features of the Oriental tyrant. The protagonist Laon is a great poet. He arouses the consciousness of resistance of people by means of eloquence. He sets a flag for democracy and freedom. His lover Cythna owns all of virtues of Oriental women. Through analysis of Shelley’s Romantic Orientalism in terms of the Oriental characters it is obvious that his appreciation to Orient is tinted with prejudice. Chapter Three mainly analyzes the Romantic Orientalism as manifested in the poem’s settings. The description of Oriental sceneries deserves attention in the poem.The analysis will focus on the natural scenes and indoor layout in the poem.Chapter Four reveals the causes of Shelley’s dual attitudes towards Orient. Conclusion summarizes the ideas of the previous parts and emphasizes that Shelley’s Romantic Orientalism indicates his duality in viewing the Orient. Shelley loves Orient, but he cannot escape the prejudice of history and culture.

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