This study engages with the emerging field of energy humanities to provide close readings of several early American oriental-observer tales. The popular genre of orientalism offered Americans a means to critique new ideas of identity, history, and nationality accompanying protoindustrialization and a growing consumerism. The tales thus express a complex self-reflection during a time when America’s exploitation of its energy resources and its engagement in a Franco-British world-system was transforming the daily life of its citizens. The genre of the oriental observer, this study argues, offers intriguing glimpses of a nation becoming strange in the eyes of its own inhabitants.
Introduction: America’s "Oriental Mirror"
1. American Oriental Tales
2. Mobility, Luxury, Textuality, and Liberty in Father Bombo’s Pilgrimage to Mecca (1770)
3. The "Oriental" Threat to the Body of America in The Algerine Spy in Pennsylvania (1787)
4. The Oriental Spectacle of Western Power in The Algerine Captive (1797)
5. History, Nature, and National Progress in Letters of Shahcoolen (1801-1802)
6. Woman, Orientalism, and Empire in Salmagundi (1807-1808)
Epilogue: The Haunted House of Oriental History in The Alhambra (1832)