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American ArabesqueArabs and Islam in the Nineteenth Century Imaginary$
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Jacob Rama Berman

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780814789506

Published to NYU Press Scholarship Online: March 2016

DOI: 10.18574/nyu/9780814789506.001.0001

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Poe’s Taste for the Arabesque

Poe’s Taste for the Arabesque

(p.109) 3 Poe’s Taste for the Arabesque
American Arabesque

Jacob Rama Berman

NYU Press

This chapter examines the translation of the image of the Arab into a “unique” expression of American romanticism, particularly in Edgar Allan Poe's oeuvre. In Poe, the figure of the Arab facilitates the experience of difference as sameness, the foreign as familiar, and the alien as domestic. In a sense, Poe cultivates the anxieties that are latent in the contact narrative's use of the image of the Arab to establish American national, cultural, and racial difference. Indeed, tracking the arabesque's movement from Arab cultural reference to uniquely American aesthetic demonstrates the role of translation in Poe's romanticism. Retranslating Poe's arabesque back into Arabo-Islamic cultural discourse, in turn, reveals resonance between Arab and American romanticism.

Keywords:   American romanticism, Edgar Allan Poe, contact narrative, American difference, Arabo-Islamic culture, Arab romanticism

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