European Literature II: Literary Representations of Asia in European Writings (EN3251/EU3218)

Semester II, 2001-2002

Lecturer: Dr. Srilata Ravi, Department of English Language and Literature , National University of Singapore

Course Description

This Comparative Literature module will familiarize students with selected European works of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The approach is inter-disciplinary linking literature to society and intellectual history. French works will be taught in translation.



Course Objectives

The main focus of this course is on literary representations of Asia in European writings. The objective will be to study the construction of exotic space in these works and to examine to what extent the western representations of the East address the West itself. Said's critique established in Orientalism (1979) holds that there is a distinctive history of European representation of the colonies and cultures of North Africa, the Middle east and those of Asia (Said 1979). "Orientalism" is a way of perceiving these areas that has been supported and justified by the West's colonialist and imperialist ventures. The lectures will elaborate upon Said's initial framework and insights from various standpoints and also incorporate more recent developments in the study of colonialist and post-colonialist cultures.

The module will begin with an introduction to the Orient in the European imagination during the nineteenth century. In the first part of the course, readings will include the translated version of Pierre Loti's Aziyadé (1879). References will be made to excerpts from Flaubert's Voyage en Orient (1835). This will be followed by a detailed study of Joseph Conrad's Lord Jim (1900).

The second part of the course will look at Henri Michaux's A Barbarian in Asia (Un Barbare en Asie 1933), André Malraux's Man's Fate (La Condition Humaine 1933) References will be made to Henri Fauconnier's The Soul of Malaya ( Malaisie 1930) and to the film Lawrence of Arabia for comparative purposes..

In the concluding part of the course, a detailed study of The Lover (L'Amant 1984) will examine the Durassian vision of the East.

Course Evaluation

Tutorial participation is compulsory

1. Tutorial participation 10%
2. In class essay 10%
3 Home Assignment 20%
4 Final Exam 60%


Primary Texts

  1. Loti Pierre, Aziyadé (New York: Kegan Paul International, 1989).
    First published in 1879.

  2. Conrad Joseph, Lord Jim ( Penguin Books , 1989).

  3. Michaux Henri, A Barbarian in Asia (WW. Norton, 1986).
    First published in 1933.

  4. Malraux André, Man's Fate ( New York: Random House, 1961)
    First published in 1933

  5. Duras Margeurite, The Lover (New York: Pantheon Books 1985)

For Further Reading

In the NUS Library Reserve Books/Readings Collection:

References will be made to selected pages from:

Lecture Schedule


Lecture timings

Wednesday 8-10 am

Venue:  AS7/01-01



No. Week Beginning Lecture Topic
1 7 Jan 2002

Literary representations (some concepts)

2 14 Jan 2002


The Orient in 19th century European imagination.

Loti (Aziyadé)- an introduction


3 21  Jan 2002 Loti (Aziyadé)
4 28 Jan 2002 Conrad (Lord Jim)
5  3 Feb 2002 Conrad (Lord Jim)
6 10  Feb 2002 (Chinese new Year week) No lectures
7 1 7 Feb 2002 Henri Michaux (A Barbarian in Asia)
9 3 March  2002 In class essay
10 10 March 2002 Malraux (Man's fate)
11 17  March 2002 Malraux (Man's fate)
12 24  March 2002 Duras (L'Amant)Malraux (Man's fate)
13 31  March 2002 Duras (L'Amant)
14 7 April 2002 Review lecture


Thursday 4-5pm
Friday 11 am -12 noon


1. Week beginning 21 January 2002
Orientalism and exoticism
Question: Discuss the concepts of exoticism ( Todorov) and Orientalism ( Said)


Photocopies of excerpts will be distributed during the lecture

2. Week beginning 28 January 2002
The exotic novel and the colonial novel


3. Week beginning 4 Feb 2002
Exoticism and Orientalism in painting

Click on this link: Rhameses in his Harem.
Study the Orientalist painting by Du Nuoy by referring to Olivier Richon's article in Europe and its Others.

  1. How is the Despot represented?
  2. How are the Oriental women represented?

Compare this painting with Women of Algiers (Delacroix, 1834) and Mackenzie (Thomas Hickey, 1816). Refer to Richon's article as framework for your analysis.


4. Week beginning 11 Feb 2002 (Chinese New Year week)
Lord Jim


5. Week beginning 18 Feb 2002
Lord Jim

Read the article by Richard Ruppel on Lord Jim. Would you agree that both Imperialism and romanticism fail in the book?


6. Week beginning 4 March 2002
Michaux’ oriental representations.


7. Week beginning 11 March 2002
A Barbarian in Asia and Persian Letters- a comparison

Photocopies of excerpts from Persian Letters will be distributed before the tutorial session

8. Week beginning 18 March 2002
Malraux’s China and Chinese philosophy


9. Week beginning 25 March 2002
Malraux and Duras

Encounters with the East in " fiction, autobiography and auto-fiction"

10 Week beginning 1 April 2002
Duras- subverting Orientalist imagery?


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Last Modified 15 February 2002