Desert Passions: Orientalism and Romance Novels
The Sheik—E. M. Hull’s best-selling novel that became a wildly popular film starring Rudolph Valentino—kindled “sheik fever” across the Western world in the 1920s. A craze for all things romantically “Oriental” swept through fashion, film, and literature, spawning imitations and parodies without number. While that fervor has largely subsided, tales of passion between Western women and Arab men continue to enthrall readers of today’s mass-market romance novels. In this groundbreaking cultural history, Hsu-Ming Teo traces the literary lineage of these desert romances and historical bodice rippers from the twelfth to the twenty-first century and explores the gendered cultural and political purposes that they have served at various historical moments. Drawing on “high” literature, erotica, and popular romance fiction and films, Teo examines the changing meanings of Orientalist tropes such as crusades and conversion, abduction by Barbary pirates, sexual slavery, the fear of renegades, the Oriental despot and his harem, the figure of the powerful Western concubine, and fantasies of escape from the harem. She analyzes the impact of imperialism, decolonization, sexual liberation, feminism, and American involvement in the Middle East on women’s Orientalist fiction. Teo suggests that the rise of female-authored romance novels dramatically transformed the nature of Orientalism because it feminized the discourse; made white women central as producers, consumers, and imagined actors; and revised, reversed, or collapsed the binaries inherent in traditional analyses of Orientalism.
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The Romantic East and European Literature
2 The Rise of the Desert Romance Novel
3 E M Hulls The Sheik
Romantic Orientalism in America
5 The Orientalist Historical Romance Novel
The Historical Background
7 Harems Heroines and Heroes
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abduction African American romance Angélique Arab Americans Arabian Arabs and Muslims argues Australian Barbary Bedouin Bride Britain British Byron Captive category romance chapter Christian colonial concubines contemporary sheik Diana discussed early twentieth century English erotic ethnic European exotic falls in love fantasies female feminist film French Garden of Allah gender genre Giaour harem Harlequin heroine heroine’s historical romance novel Hollywood Hull’s imperial interracial Islam Islamist terrorism Kadin late lover Lustful Turk male mance men’s Middle East Middle Eastern Mills & Boon miscegenation motifs Muslim Muslim women North Africa Oriental Orientalist Orientalist discourse Orientalist historical Orientalist romance novels Ottoman Ottoman Empire passion plot political popular culture race racial rape romance fiction romance novelists romance readers romantic love Selim sheik hero sheik novels sheik romance novels Slave Small’s story subgenre Suleiman sultan terrorist tradition Tuareg United Valentino virgin Western heroine white women woman