Date of Award

Summer 8-2018

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Michael T. Williamson

Second Advisor

David Downing

Third Advisor

Michael Sell

Abstract

This dissertation explores alternative readings of East-West intellectual and literary interactions in selected texts from late-eighteenth and early-to-mid-nineteenth-century English literature. My main argument is that Walter Savage Landor’s Gebir, Robert Southey’s Thalaba the Destroyer, Percy Shelley’s The Revolt of Islam, William Wordsworth’s “Dream of an Arab” from the Prelude, Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, and Charlotte Brontë’s Villette have engaged with textual and contextual knowledges and mindsets from the East, with an emphasis on the Arabic and Islamic world, to articulate alternative perspectives designed to reform what they see as individually, socially, culturally, literary and politically uncivilized aspects of British society.

The knowledges and mindsets the selected writers engage with from the Islamic and Arabic world include religious notions such as damnation, redemption, divine order, submission, and faith. They also have literary traditions, such as mystical and oral poetry from Arabia. Interestingly, Austen and Brontë expand these engagements to include more personal and social mindsets that pertain the women’s world and the entire society. Their novels incorporate an alternative Eastern understanding of notions such as woman’s propriety and self-denial. They also discuss notions such as self-regulation, self-reliance, confinement, exposure and enclosure. My examination of the writers’ reformative arguments and perspectives in the selected texts underscores open-ended perception of their engagements with the East. The outcomes of these engagements span from philosophical, literary, intellectual, and political agendas. Whereas the political dimension of these engagements is always dissected from the philosophical and literary ones, I emphasize that considering the literary and philosophical platforms of the selected writers’ engagement with the Islamic and Arabic knowledges and examining them in their Islamic and Arabic context enhance our understanding of their critical political arguments.

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