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Byron’s Politics in “The Giaour”: A Socio-Political Speculation

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Historically, Europe was fearful of the remarkably swift expansion of the Ottoman Empire in the 16th century. And it was not until the middle of the 18th century that the brutal struggle between Europeans and Turks ended; but the West then still situated Turkey in an indelible, despotic frame despite the fact that some scholars instigated an interest in Oriental culture. Western literature had for centuries portrayed the East in an aggressive and bigoted manner; this hostile perception distanced the West from the Orient. A new political situation prevailed as the West began a political propaganda to dominate the weak East; that political and even literary propaganda was the main thrust for the Western colonial ambitions. Several British men of letters directly or indirectly contributed to this propaganda during the 18th and 19th centuries, but not Lord Byron, who used his Oriental tales, and specifically “The Giaour,” to broaden his political horizon in order to re-evaluate both state and global affairs and to reveal to Eastern and Western readers his impartial stance towards European and Turkish policies. In this work, I contend that Byron’s political ideology was prompted by not only an idealistic Romantic spirit but also by a realistic one, as well. And although “The Giaour” is political par excellence, yet it does not reveal any colonial, imperial schemes, contrary to what a number of critics think. Peter Cochran believes that “The Giaour” is “… a metaphor for western imperialist expansion into and forcible domination of eastern countries” (Cochran Byron and Orientalism 2), while deceitfully supporting nations desiring autonomy in the Occident. Cochran discerns in Byron’s tale the Western longing for subjugating and governing the East. This study, however, proves that Byron’s 1st Oriental tale after his return from his 1st Oriental tour is emblematic of his concern with liberalism and with admiration for the East, thus deviating from the popular imperialism that existed at the time.


International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences (Volume 39)
S. Karam "Byron’s Politics in “The Giaour”: A Socio-Political Speculation", International Letters of Social and Humanistic Sciences, Vol. 39, pp. 77-84, 2014
Online since:
Sep 2014