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DRPS : Course Catalogue : Edinburgh College of Art : History of Art

Undergraduate Course: Orientalism and Visual Culture (HIAR10119)

Course Outline
SchoolEdinburgh College of Art CollegeCollege of Humanities and Social Science
Credit level (Normal year taken)SCQF Level 10 (Year 4 Undergraduate) AvailabilityNot available to visiting students
SCQF Credits20 ECTS Credits10
SummaryThis course is concerned with the politics of representation with a focus on 'Orientalist' traditions in the visual arts in the Western world, especially in Britain and France. The burgeoning artistic fascination with the so-called Orient developed against a background of colonial ambitions in the East and usually required a trip to the so-called 'Orient': the Maghreb, the Near and Middle East. It found expression in a variety of media, including fine art, architecture, design, displays, world fairs, photography, film and other projects. Adopting a flexible historical framework, this course critically analyses a selection of significant cases and individual artists (e.g. Delacroix, J.F. Lewis, Owen Jones, J.L. Gérome, Matisse amongst others) from the early nineteenth century to the twentieth century. They will be considered with reference to their immediate historical and artistic contexts, and also in relation to the broader history of the relationship between East and West. The main focus is on the representation of the people and places in the Middle East and North Africa in the visual arts, and the cultural politics of architectural style and form inspired by Islamic design. In addition, the course will explore how the fascination with 'Moorish Spain' impacted on British art, architecture and design. Spain is an interesting case as the 'oriental' is located within Europe and its history, and it therefore represents a particularly fertile ground to reflect on Western attitudes to the 'other'.
Discussions will evolve around the following questions: how did certain political and ideological attitudes and religious beliefs inform the construction and reproduction of Western knowledge about the Islamic world? Why and to what effect did Europeans turn to the exotic for inspiration, and what strategies and tactics did they use to translate the foreign into terms and idioms that could be understood by their audiences at home? In which ways did Orientalism in the arts reflect and promote Europe's military and political commitments in the East? How do we explain the adoption of Orientalist conventions by Turkish painters? The political dimension of our subject will always be close to the surface, and class discussions will be informed by theories of cultural translation and post-colonialism. Edward Said's seminal Orientalism (1978) suggested that the so-called 'Orient' was understood in an essentialist manner, and that the very act of mapping and describing the East was part of a mechanism of colonialism, designed to justify and perpetuate European imperialism in the East. Such assumptions have been queried over the last fifteen years, and it has been argued that representations of the exotic could also be shaped by other concerns, e.g. gender and class; that works of art can operate coherently at other less loaded levels (documentary, aesthetic, narrative), and may also be interpreted in terms of cross-cultural encounters and reciprocity. A lecture at the start of the course will provide an introduction to the diverse theoretical positions and methodologies, which will be explored in this course.
Course description Week 1: Introduction to the course

Week 2: Postcolonial Theory and the Orientalist Debate (Edward Said, his disciples and critics)

Week 3: Romanticism and Orientalism

Week 4: Visit to the National Gallery of Scotland: William Allan's Slavemarket

Week 5: The Alhambra in Britain: Between Foreignisation and Domestication

Week 6: Reading Week / Innovative Learning Week (tbc)

Week 7: Art and Architecture of Islam in Europe

Week 8: The Poetics and Politics of Place: Ottoman Istanbul

Week 9: 'Only women should go to Turkey'. The Harem in Art and Literature

Week 10: Visions of the East: Orientalism and Cinema

Week 11: Conclusions

This course will provide students with a selection of pivotal case studies of 'Orientalism' in the visual arts in Europe between the early nineteenth century and the mid-20th century. This period is extremely rich in Orientalist art, architecture and design, and has produced an extensive bibliography, which continues to expand. The Western fascination with the exotic has nurtured a broad spectrum of art historical interpretations, a fact which is reflected in the diverse theoretical approaches, methodologies and conclusions drawn by art historians and historians. One aim of this course is to provide students with a critical understanding of these diverse approaches and the ongoing 'Orientalist-debate' at the interface of art history, post-colonial theory and theories of cultural translation. The course is structured around certain key moments, places and themes, which fascinated Western artists, and the main media in which Orientalism found expression: art, architecture, architectural models, design, displays, world fairs and film. The purpose of the course is to examine why artists turned to the non-European for inspiration; to analyse the complex process by which artists, architects and designers transformed the exotic into terms and idioms that could be understood by their audiences at home, and to explore how Orientalism in the arts impacted on Western perceptions of Islamic culture.
Entry Requirements (not applicable to Visiting Students)
Pre-requisites Students MUST have passed: History of Art 2 (HIAR08012) OR Architectural History 2a: Order & the City (ARHI08006) AND Architectural History 2b: Culture & the City (ARHI08007)
Prohibited Combinations Other requirements None
Course Delivery Information
Not being delivered
Learning Outcomes
On completion of this course, the student will be able to:
  1. demonstrate a knowledge of the defining features of European representations of the Islamic world from the middle of the eighteenth to the twentieth century
  2. describe and explain the relationship between representations of the Islamic world and issues of power
  3. demonstrate a critical understanding of postcolonial theory and theories of cultural translation
  4. apply theoretical concepts to analyses of European representations of the Islamic world
  5. communicate (verbally and in writing) issues surrounding European representations of the Islamic world.
Reading List
Apter, Emily, 'Female Trouble in the Colonial Harem,' Differences 4, no.1 (spring 1992) pp.205-24.

Avcioglu, Nebahat, Turquerie. Politics of Representation, 1728-1876 (Ashgate, 2011)

Beaulieu, Jill and Roberts, Mary, Orientalism's Interlocutors: Painting, Architecture, Photography (Durham: Duke University Press, 2002)

Benjamin, R., Orientalism: Delacroix to Klee (Sydney, 1997)

Bernstein, M. and Studlar, G. (eds.), Visions of the East. Orientalism in Film (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1997)

Clark, Steve, ed., Travel Writing and Empire: Postcolonial Theory in Transit (London, 1999)

Çelik, Zynep, Displaying the Orient: Architecture of Islam at Nineteenth-century World's Fairs (Berkely; Oxford: University of California Press, 1992)

James Clifford, The Predicament of Culture: Twentieth-Century Ethnography, Literature and Art (London, 1988)

Crinson, Mark, Empire Building. Orientalism and Victorian Architecture (London, 1996)

Darby, Michael, The Islamic Perspective: An Aspect of British Architecture and Design in the Nineteenth Century (London, 1983).

Ferry, K., 'Owen Jones and the Alhambra Court at the Crystal Palace', in Anderson, G. and Rosser-Owen (eds.) Revisiting al-Andalus: Perspectives on the Material Culture of Islamic Iberia and Beyond (Leiden: Bril 2007)

Hrvol Flores, C., Owen Jones. Design, Ornament, Architecture, and Theory in an Age in Transition (New York, 2006)

Inankur, Z., Lewis, R. and Roberts, M. (eds), The Poetics and Politics of Place, Ottoman Istanbul and British Orientalism (Washington: Washington University Press, 2011)

Kennedy, Valery, Edward Said: a critical introduction (Malden, Mass., 2000)

Gerardo Kurtz, 'Charles Clifford and the Alhambra', Images in Time. A Century of Photography at the Alhambra 1840-1940 (Granada: Patronato de Granada, 2003)

MacKenzie, John, Orientalism: History, Theory and the Arts (Manchester, 1995)

Gayangos, Pascual, History of the Mohammedan Dynasties in Spain [1840-3], new edition with an introduction by Michael Brett (London, Royal Asiatic Society, 2000)

Grimaldo Grigsby, Darcy, 'Orients and Colonies. Delacroix's Algerian Harem' in The Cambridge Companion to Delacroix, Cambridge, pp.69-87.

Grimaldo Grigsby, Darcy, Extremities: Painting Empire in Post-Revolutionary France, New Haven and London, 2002

Irving, Washington, Tales of the Alhambra, Granada [1832], ed. 1953
Tales of a Traveller, ed. 1987
Journal of Washington Irving: 1828, and miscellaneous notes on Moorish legend and history, New York, ed. 1937

Heide, Claudia, 'The Alhambra in Britain. Between Foreignisation and
Domestication', Art in Translation, July 2010
'The Dream of the South', in Baker, C. (ed.), The Discovery of Spain (National Galleries of Scotland, 2009)

Pascual de Gayangos: A Nineteenth-century Spanish Arabist, co-edited with C. Alvarez-Millan (Edinburgh University Press, 2008)

Kenney, L. and Çelik, Z, 'Ethnography and Exhibitionism at the Expositions Universelles', Assemblage (December 1990): 35-58.

Lewis, Reina, Gendering Orientalism, London, New York, 1996

Mitchell, Timothey, 'Orientalism and the Exhibitionary Order' [1989] in Preziosi (ed.), The Art of Art History, 1998, pp.455-472

Monroe, T, Islam and the Arabs in Spanish Scholarship, Leiden, 1970

Raquejo, 'The Arab Cathedrals: Moorish Architecture as seen by British Travellers', in The Burlington Magazine, vol. 128, no 1001, August 1986, pp. 555-563 (available online on )

Said, E., Orientalism, London, 1978 1st edition (second 1991)
'Orientalism Reconsidered' in Cultural Critique, no 1, Autumn 1985, 89-107 (available online:
Culture and Imperialism, 1993

Richardson, Alan, Three Oriental Tales. Complete texts with introduction, historical contexts, critical essays, Boston, 2002

Richardson, Michael, Otherness in Hollywood Cinema (Continuum, 2010)

Roberts, Mary, Edges of Empire. Orientalism and Visual Culture (John Wiley and
Sons, 2005)
Intimate Outsiders, The Harem in Ottoman and Orientalist Art and Literature (Duke University Press, 2008)

Slemon, Stephen, 'The Scramble for Post-colonialism', The Post-Colonial Studies Reader, Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths, Helen Tiffin, eds., pp.45-52

Stevens, Mary ed., The Orientalists: Delacroix to Matisse. European Painters in North Africa and the Near East (London, Royal Academy, 1984)

Sweetman, John, The Oriental Obsession (Cambridge, 1991)

Tawardos, Çeylan, 'Foreign Bodies: Art History and the Discourse of Nineteenth-Century Orientalist Art' Third Text, nos.3/4, spring/summer 1988

Thompson, James ed., The East Imagined, Experienced, Remembered: Orientalist Nineteenth-Century Painting, National Museum of Ireland, 1988

Thornton, Lynn, The Orientalists: Painter Travellers 1828-1908, Paris, 1983

Tromans, Nicholas, The Lure of the East. British Orientalist Painting (London: Tate Publishing, 2008

Windschuttle, Keith, 'Orientalism Revisited', New Criterion 1999. (

Yeazell, Ruth Bernard, Harems of the Minds (Yale, 2000)

Young, Robert, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race, 1995

Additional Information
Graduate Attributes and Skills Not entered
KeywordsNot entered
Course organiserDr Claudia Hopkins
Tel: (0131 6)50 4118
Course secretaryMrs Sue Cavanagh
Tel: (0131 6)51 1460
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