Use this URL to cite or link to this record in EThOS: http://ethos.bl.uk/OrderDetails.do?uin=uk.bl.ethos.538763
Title: Burton and Orientalism
Author: Wallen, John
Awarding Body: Royal Holloway, University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 2010
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Abstract:
My thesis aims to analyse the ways in which the Victorian intellectual and traveller, Richard Francis Burton, has been viewed by contemporaries and more modern critics. In 3 particular, I point out that while most views of Burton in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries were positive, in recent times his achievements have been rather neglected in certain academic circles (though there has been no shortage of interest in his life with the publication of a steady stream of biographies). As I show in the thesis, this is largely due to the negative views of Burton expressed in Edward Said's influential book, Orientalism. With the subsequent development of Said's treatise into the branch of modern criticism known as post-colonial theory, Said's views on Burton have become ossified within the discourse. In post-colonialism, Burton is often used as an archetype of everything that was wrong about Victorian imperialism and paternalism. For example, Mary Louise Pratt portrays Burton as a prime example of an English traveller whose "imperial eyes" survey and control everything they light upon (in the case referred to, Lake Tanganyika). On the other hand, biographers and historical writers such as Dane Kennedy have had many positive things to say about Burton, and one of my major concerns in this thesis is to bring together the differing viewpoints of the biographers and post-colonial critics (who up to the present time have largely ignored each other) in a mutually beneficial process of crossfertilisation that will reveal a more complicated-and also more accurate-Richard Burton for detailed future consideration and discussion. In the thesis I assert that we should view Burton as a man of his time who contributed much that was previously unknown to the fledgling Victorian sciences of anthropology and ethnography. In particular, I emphasise Burton's contribution to the development of a relativistic view of religion and cultural traditions that challenged the monolithic view of the Victorians concerning the absolute superiority of their own religion-Christianity-over the native peoples they ruled. In essence, my thesis is an attempt to put Burton back where he belongs as a significant contributor to the developing world-view that gained such huge momentum in the late nineteenthcentury and subsequently led to what is, usually, roughly termed as "the scientific method". Furthermore, it is my belief that this aim can best be realised by dissociating Burton from Said's discourse on "Orientalism" and placing him in other, more positive contexts connected with Victorianism such as Victorian travel writing, Victorian intellectuals with a sympathy for Islam, and the development of Victorian science.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID: uk.bl.ethos.538763  DOI: Not available
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