The Sultan's Court: European Fantasies of the East
Edward Said's Orientalism has been much praised for its account of Western perceptions of the Orient. But the English-speaking world has for too long been unaware of another classic in the same field which appeared in France only a year later. Alain Grosrichard's The Sultan's Court is a fascinating survey of Western accounts of "Oriental despotism" in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It focuses particularly on portrayals of the Ottoman Empire and the supposedly enigmatic structure of the despot's court—the seraglio—with its viziers, janissaries, mutes, dwarfs, eunuchs and countless wives.
Drawing on the writings of travellers and philosophers such as Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire, Grosrichard goes further than merely cataloguing their intense fascination with the vortex of capriciousness, violence, cruelty, lust, sexual perversion and slavery which they perceived in the seraglio. Deftly and subtly using a Lacanian psychoanalytical framework, he describes the process as one in which these leading Enlightenment figures were constructing a fantastic Other to counterpose their project of a rationally based society. The Sultan's Court seeks not to refute the misconceptions but rather explore the nature of the fantasy and what it can reveal about modern political thought and power relations more generally."
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1bid absolute Ancillon Aristotle Asia Baudier becomes believe blind body castration Chardin Chris Turner Christian command corruption death desire despotic government despotic power despotic regime Empire eunuchs everything exercise exist eyes fantasy father fear form of government Freud function gaze give Grosrichard harem hieroglyph Histoire generale honour ichoglans imaginary imagination Janissaries Jean Baudrillard jouissance king kingship Koran Lacan language Lord Mahomet Mahommedan Mahommedan religion marriage master means Mogul Empire monarchy Montesquieu Muslim mutes never obedience obey Oriental despotism Ottoman paradox Paris passions Persian Letters phantasmic pleasure political power polygamy precisely prince principle pure reality relation religion Ricaut Rousseau rule salaams seraglio servitude sexes sexual signifier slaves Slavoj Zizek speak Spirit of Laws subject supposed Sultan surplus enjoyment Tavernier things Tournefort Translated travellers Turcs Turkey Turkish Turks Usbek Vignau vizier Voltaire Voyages woman women words writes