Misunderstanding between East and West has become so common today that the clash between the two civilizations has become a cliché. In recent history, numerous wars and conflicts have erupted as a result of Occidental misperceptions of the Orient and vice versa. To the European mind, the Maghreb, Persia, the Levant, Arabia, Anatolia, and the adjacent lands are but a single entity evoking poetic visions of the Orient. While it may be true that among these regions, certain commonalities exist, diversity and the richness of several cultures more aptly describes the Orient. Edward Said’s “Introduction” to Orientalism aids readers in understanding the basis for Rhonda Vander Sluis’s companions – prejudice and stereotype – in her search for identity in Turkey.
More than anything else, in his “Introduction” to Orientalism Edward Said attempts to educate his readers about the flaws he sees in the European notion of Orientalism. He identifies generalization as the root cause of differences and misunderstanding between Europe and the Orient. As Said sees it, Orientalism is both an academic model and a poetic one (Said 2, 3). Europe created Orientalism politically, socially, and militarily, thus every European traveler and poet who has written about the Orient is tainted by this construct. Travelers such as François-René Chateaubriand and Gérard de Nerval are credited with helping to create the Orient as a European concept that explains North Africa, the Holy Lands, Persia, Turkey and the contiguous realms. These Romantics saw Turkey as an idyllic land, “voulant d'abord aller à Troie, par piété poétique”1 for they were enamored of the Orient’s poetic splendor (Chateaubriand). Though it is possible to write a more “coarse polemic...
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