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Title: Lord Byron vis-à-vis Leila: Gender Politics in "Rumour
Authors: Chin, Jen-Hao
Keywords: The Giaour;gender politics;Romantic readership;rumour;Gayatri Spivak
Date: 2014-09
Issue Date: 2016-08-23 17:54:25 (UTC+8)
Abstract: In light of Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak's "Subaltern Studies: Deconstructing Historiography" (1988), the present paper suggests an alternative reading of Lord Byron's The Giaour (1813). Criticisms of Byron's Turkish tales in the past decades center upon the problematic Orientalist representations of Byron's female characters. However, readings as such can hardly avoid the danger of essentialization. The paper first explicates the fragmentary and erotic representations of Leila and the gender stereotypes revealed by her counterparts, the Giaour and Hassan. Both the Christian and the Muslim attitudes toward the female sex are ironically placed in juxtaposition, and this subtly destabilizes the shared male gaze of both characters and the fixed value systems of Western/Eastern imperialism/colonialism. As for Leila, aside from being a synecdoche of the racial and gendered other, her "transparent" character is endowed with a narrative function: it is only by retrieving the lost fragments of her subject from various male perspectives can the readers successfully rearrange the entangled plots. Furthermore, Byron's charisma affects his (mostly female) readers so much that the act of reading is eroticized in the imaginary liaisons between the (present) readers and their (absent) celebrity idol, the "sexy" Byron. Here, Byron shows an exceptional desire for the discerned readers, welcoming their emotional identification (sometimes in pathetic fallacy) with a seductive fictionality. Some critics regard the phenomenon merely as Byron's investment of cultural capital in conspiracy with commodity fetishism; nevertheless, such interpretations ignore the positive social effect of Byron's texts. The mechanism of textual reception not only enhances the intimacy between the author and the reader but also connects the private and the public. Byron's popularity, with the reading, sharing, and selling of his works, contains the potentiality of social change. The circulation of Byron's contested texts and ideologies thus offers a locus of signification, where the collective conditions of the Subaltern women in the rest of the world become imaginable. The Spivakian idea of "rumour" is served as part of the conclusion of the paper. Texts with social significance solicit the readers to observe and elaborate various referential connections in biographical, political, and historical aspects. The sense of "comradeship" in the act of reading belongs to every "transmitter" of a text (Spivak 1988), and so such closeness between the author and the reader might possibly result in actual social action. In a nutshell, The Giaour as a "rumour" is rapidly popularized due to its intriguing gender politics and its Romantic dynamics of readership, and it provides a source of connections between Byron's socio-historical present and the quest of political possibilities in the 21st century.
Relation: 文化越界,1(12),77-93
Cross-cultural Studies
Data Type: article
Appears in Collections:[文化越界 ] 期刊論文

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