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Discussions of orientalism are, understandably, generally framed in a postcolonial context: the word “orientalism” itself makes it clear that the term refers to the “Orient”, whether that be the Middle East or the Far East or anything in between. Discussions of colonialism in the Caribbean and in sub-Saharan Africa are likewise framable in terms of postcolonialism. What, though, do we do with places that were not colonies?
I am thinking in particular of Dracula: what do we make of, for example, Mina’s comments on the Transylvanian countryside:
The country is lovely, and most interesting; if only we were under different conditions, how delightful it would be to see it all! If Jonathan and I were driving through it alone what a pleasure it would be! To stop and see people, and learn something of their life, and to fill our minds and memories with all the colour and picturesqueness of the whole wild, beautiful country and the quaint people!
Dracula, Bram Stoker
This attitude seems to show up fairly often in treatments of Eastern Europe, for that matter. I am currently reading The Lure of Vienna, a 1926 travel guide by Alice M. Williamson, which includes such gems as this:
To me, Vienna has more individuality than almost any other city, not actually of the East.
The Lure of Vienna, Alice M. Williamson
Is this still orientalism, or is there another word? There are a whole collection of stereotypes associated with Eastern Europe, and though there is, I think, some overlap between those and the assumptions that form the base of orientalism, I think there’s enough difference that to call these attitudes “orientalism” would be too much of a stretch. Just plain “romanticism”? That feels wrong to me, though I suppose it fits better than anything else I can think of. Thoughts?