Team-taught by two scholars with specialties in Chinese history and French literature respectively, “Exchange before Orientalism” aims to introduce seminar participants to the degree and variety of exchange between Europe and other parts of the world from c. 1500-1800. In recent decades scholarship on contact between Europe and Asia has been framed by the concept of “Orientalism.” Orientalism in this context refers to the way that Europeans studied, understood, and indeed defined “the East,” in the context of European colonial expansion. This two-day course will introduce the important concept of Orientalism, but also look at other models of cultural encounters. The time frame of 1500-1800 allows us to also examine exchange before European economic and technological advantages set the scene for turning such encounters into expressions of unequal power relations. Furthermore, in an effort to resist casting Europe as a monolithic whole, the course will examine variety in and across Europe in the relations of individual countries with the wider world. We will focus on differences, and competition, across Europe even as we explore the emergence of “Europe” as a concept and region defined in relation to the larger world. Visual materials will form an important part of the seminar as will the display of relevant works in the Newberry Library’s collections.
Seminar led by Laura Hostetler, University of Illinois at Chicago and Ellen McClure, University of Illinois at Chicago