The Sultan's Court: European Fantasies of Asiatic Despotism (Wo Es War)

The Sultan's Court: European Fantasies of Asiatic Despotism (Wo Es War)

by LizHeron (Introduction), Alain Grosrichard (Author), Mladen Dolar (Introduction)


Edward Said's Orientalism has been much praised for its account of Western perceptions of the Orient. But the English-speaking world has for too long been unaware of another classic in the same field which appeared in France only a year later. Alain Grosrichard's The Sultan's Court is a fascinating survey of Western accounts of Oriental despotism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. It focuses particularly on portrayals of the Ottoman Empire and the supposedly enigmatic structure of the despot's court - the seraglio - with its viziers, janissaries, mutes, dwarfs, eunuchs and countless wives. Drawing on the writings of travellers and philosophers such as Montesquieu, Rousseau and Voltaire, Grosrichard goes further than merely cataloguing their intense fascination with the vortex of capriciousness, violence, cruelty, lust, sexual perversion and slavery which they perceived in the seraglio. Deftly and subtly using a Lacanian psychoanalytical framework, he describes the process as one in which these leading Enlightenment figures were constructing a fantastic Other to counterpose their project of a rationally based society. The Sultan's Court seeks not to refute the misconceptions but rather explore the nature of the fantasy and what it can reveal about modern political thought and power relations more generally.



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More Information

Format: Paperback
Pages: 222
Publisher: Verso Books
Published: 18 Jun 1998

ISBN 10: 1859841228
ISBN 13: 9781859841228

Media Reviews
What Said's Orientalism achieves in breadth, The Sultan's Court provides in depth: the precise outline - the elementary formula - of the sexual-political fantasy of Oriental Despotism which structures our perception of the Muslim countries from the seventeenth century to our own times, and on to which Western ideology projects its own inconsistencies and repressed traumas. Combing French elegance and clarity of style with the highest conceptual stringency, this immensely readable book demonstrates the extraordinary potential of Lacanian psychoanalysis for social analysis. A classic of the theory of ideology to be ranged with the greatest achievements of Adorno, Foucault or Jameson! -- Slavoj Zizek
Author Bio
Alain Grosrichard is professor of seventeenth-and eighteenth-century French literature at the University of Geneva and was a member of the Ecole de la Cause Freudienne. He has published widely on psychoanalysis and the history of literature.