Electronic Thesis and Dissertation Repository


Doctor of Philosophy


Comparative Literature


Angela Esterhammer

2nd Supervisor

Tilottama Rajan

Joint Supervisor


This dissertation examines the various literary modes in which German and British Romantic literature and culture organize knowledge about Islam and the Middle East. I explore how the Orient exceeds and troubles the “place” it is given in a historical and geographical classification systems. I argue that many Romantic writers challenge the constructedness of the Oriental narrative during their time, thus questioning what really constitutes knowledge and the limits of knowledge. In this context, I re-evaluate Edward W. Said’s socio-historical generalizations regarding Orientalism as a form of Western control over the East. While studies on Romantic Orientalism have focused on representations of knowledge about India and Africa, little attention has been paid to the significance of Islam, the Ottoman Empire, and Arabic language and poetry for Romanticism.

My literary corpus consists of Johann Gottfried von Herder’s Ideen zur Philosophie der Geschichte der Menschheit (1784-1791), Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s West-östlicher Divan and the Noten und Abhandlungen zu Besserem Verständnis (1819), Lord G. Byron’s Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage Canto II (1812), and the The Giaour (1816). I also examine travelogues and philhellenic dramas of the 1820s, such as John Cam Hobhouse’s A Journey Through Albania (1813), and John Howard Payne’s Ali Pacha; or, the Signet Ring (1822), and their representations of an important but often neglected political figure, Ali Pasha of Yannina. In each chapter, I illustrate how the authors confront and question the (im)possibility of knowledge of the Other, and in turn criticize Western culture’s reception of the Orient and the practice of Orientalism.