Edward Said’s Orientalism and the Study of the Self and the Other in Orwell’s Burmese Days
Critics unanimously regard Said’s Orientalism as the cornerstone of postcolonial canon. It was this celebrated work that generated other related books and materials. Orientalism is a Western style for Orientalizing the Orient, i.e. how from knowledge of the Orient particularly from nineteenth century the Orient is defined by a set of recurring images and clichés and how afterwards this knowledge of the Orient is put into practice by colonialism and imperialism. Orientalism is affiliated with the representation of the Self or Occident and the Other or Orient in which the Self is privileged and has upper hand to define, reconstruct the passive, silent and weak Other. For Said, this geographical line made between the Occident and the Orient is arbitrary and numerous Western scholars, orientalists such as Burton, Lane, Lyall, Massignon, among others and literary figures like Aeschylus, Shakespeare, Austin, Flaubert, Kipling, Conrad, etc. contributed to the shaping of this discourse about the Orient and/or misrepresenting the Orient. Orwell as a Western writer was born in India and served five years in Indian Imperial Police in Burma and one of his major concerns during his life was the issue of imperialism and colonialism which is reflected in many works such as Burmese Days, Shooting an Elephant, Marrakech and Hanging. One characteristic which is shared among these western works and similar ones is the author’s conflicting feelings within them about the Orient and Orientals through Western’s lens. In this study, the relationship of the representer or Westerners and the represented or Easterners is fully expounded in Burmese Days in the light of Said’s Orientalism.Key words: Edward Said; Orientalism; Binary opposition; Orwell; The Self and the Other; Burmese Days
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