Date of Award

1-14-2013

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Christopher Orchard, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

David Downing, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Michael T. Williamson, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

Kay Snyder, Ph.D.

Abstract

This dissertation addresses two limitations in recent scholarship on the representations of Islam and Muslims in nineteenth-century British literature. It implements a literary critique of the epistemological nature and repercussions of some of these representations from a nuanced historical perspective. And it recovers and recommends for serious scholarly study pertinent texts that are at present neglected or un-canonized. The importance of such texts lies in their subversive nature: the representations they offer of Islam and/or Muslims challenges the dominant nineteenth-century Orientalist, missionary, and historical discourses which pervasively represents them as uncivilized, inferior, or evil. The second limitation is marked by the failure of previous scholarship to accept its pedagogic responsibility. As valuable as recent scholarship is to the Orientalist and scholar of nineteenth-century British literature, it has shown little commitment to extending the scope of research into the classroom order to change the way nineteenth-century British literature is taught in the present-day Western academy. This dissertation, couched in New Historicist methodology, addresses the two limitations in five chapters. The introductory chapter situates the dissertation in recent scholarship on the representations of Islam in nineteenth-century British literature. Chapter two takes a close look at the historical presence of Muslims in Britain during the 19th-century, identifying missionary discourse and conversion to Islam as forces which affected some of the textual representations of Islam and Muslims. Chapter three offers a critique of specific literary texts through applying Spivak's notion of epistemic violence to some of the consistent, reductive representations of Islam and Muslims in nineteenth-century Britain, and argues that this epistemic violence is a requirement in the fashioning of imperial and Jewish identities. Chapter four recovers three nineteenth-century texts, and analyzes the ways in which they subvert dominant representations of Islam and Muslims. Chapter five discusses the pedagogical relevance of these texts, and argues through engagement with canon theory for anthologizing them, including them on reading lists in course offerings from the history and English departments at IUP, and for making them available in digital format on the World Wide Web for a wider readership.

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