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Orientalism in the Kubla Khan in the context

Updated on August 7, 2014

In accordance to Said (1978), Orientalism is the period dating from the European Enlightenment to colonization of the Arab World. It offers a rationalization for the European colonization of the Arab world based on self-serving history. This self-serving history is where the “West” perceived the “East” as an inferior and a different continent that had lagged behind in many areas. Owing to this aspect, the “West” deemed the “East” to be in dire need or intervention of the West for sustenance and development.

This aspect is depicted right in the beginning of the poem where there is a description of magnificent palaces established by Kubla Khan. Khan was a Mongolian ruler during the 13th century. These “pleasure domes” is a reflection of the ruler’s sovereign power and the developed nature of Europe. Further, the poet’s description of the palace and its environment is meant to convey the imperiousness and grandiosity in the character of this ruler where he perceives himself to be above all others. The narrator also offers a description of the neighborhoods in Kubla Khan’s domain which is wild and untamed, covered with a massive forest and separated by a huge river.

The two descriptions in the poem simply relates to the “Western” and “Eastern Domains” respectively. While the poet describes the Western Kingdom as being structured and organized, he portrays the East as being unorganized at that time. In an endeavor to further portray the difference between these two worlds, and depicting that a sense of cohesion and harmony was not existing between these two worlds, the narrator goes on to explain that there was a hidden huge crack on the earth which was under a grove of dense forest.

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