Fictional Orients: Hybrid Modernity Under Enlightenment Premises, 1682-1789


ACLS Fellowship Program




Eighteenth-century European discourses about Asia take the form of thought-experiments concerning the inter-relationship of religion, society, politics, and culture through the versatile vehicle of fiction, as satire, moral tale, fable, novel, or allegory. These fictions make their readers reflective about political economy, aesthetic criteria, gender norms, and exotic practices. By challenging and displacing conventional psychologies, the estrangement effects of these fictions (sometimes deemed "oriental tales") are powerful tools of criticism created by the circulation of translations and cultural knowledge from Asia. By examining these fictional writings--and their nonfictional counterparts--we can gain new knowledge about the complex and self-critical nature of a hybrid modernity.