Working Papers in the Humanities 14: Reframing Exoticism in European Literature

European identity and literature have developed on a bedrock of constant confrontation with the 'exotic'. If, in 1978, Said's seminal Orientalism has convincingly demonstrated that the prevailing image of the 'Orient' was a Western construct, generated by a complex set of economic and political concerns, it is equally true that exotic representations have defined the European culture from which they originated. The appropriation and subsequent domestication of the exotic have variously reflected ideological and religious stances over time, and the difficulty of unsettling certain established convictions has intersected cultural mobility and porosity, in a process whose traits are only apparently paradoxical. This process is overwhelmingly embedded in the history of colonialism, and the more recent postcolonial turn in critical thought. Indeed, literature has played a central role in the construction and deconstruction of both colonial power and exoticism as an aesthetic category.

This fourteenth issue of MHRA Working Papers in the Humanities seeks to engage with the multifaceted category of the 'exotic' in European literature, art, and culture, with its ever-changing character, and with its position in past and present discourses. We encourage contributors to interrogate the established discourse in this field. For example, how might recent developments in world literature, comparative, and postcolonial theory challenge and enhance Said's work? To what extent has exoticism – if not exoticisms – changed over time and in different national contexts, according to mutating historical conditions? In what way have narrative, philosophy, and ideology engaged with the shifting parameters of exoticism? How have different traditions dealt with those moments of 'cultural contact' which bring into focus the alienation of self/other? In light of globalisation, have we outrun the usefulness of exoticism as a cultural concept?

We invite proposals covering a range of periods and across different national contexts (including English-, French-, Germanic-, Hispanic-, Italian-, Portuguese-, and Slavonic-speaking cultures). We hope to attract scholars working in a variety of fields (Modern Languages, English Studies, Comparative Literature, Cultural History, Film and Media Studies and Digital Humanities, Art History, Performance and Reception History, and others).

The following should be viewed as suggestions, rather than limitations:

  • cultural representation of the exotic
  • identity interactions
  • ideological myths
  • mobility of cultures and subjectivities
  • aestheticism of otherness
  • Utopianism and Third-mondism
  • ethics of interaction
  • Occidental construction and anti-Occidental deconstruction
  • real and imaginary East
  • exoticism in the decorative arts
  • Postcolonial Ecocriticism and exotic landscapes

Working Papers in the Humanities is an electronic open-access journal intended to allow researchers to present initial findings or hypotheses such as might, at a more advanced stage, become eligible for publication in established scholarly journals. As such it will be of particular interest to postgraduate researchers, though established scholars are also invited to submit papers.

We invite proposals for papers of up to 4000 words in MHRA style, with completed essays to be delivered to the editors by 1 July 2019. Abstracts of no more than 250 words should be sent, accompanied by a short biographical statement on the same page, to by 15 February 2019.

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