Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930

Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures: Orientalism in America, 1870-1930

Noble Dreams, Wicked Pleasures

By Holly Edwards
With essays by Brian T. Allen, Steven C. Caton, Zeynep Çelik, and Oleg Grabar

$60.00 Hardcover
$35.00 Softcover

The Western world has long had a fascination with the Orient. To date, however, scholars have focused primarily on the region's impact on European art and culture. This groundbreaking book considers the ways in which urban, mercantile, Protestant America envisioned the Islamic world of the Middle East and North Africa during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Using a wide variety of sources—paintings, decorative arts, interior design, and numerous examples from advertising and popular culture—the authors demonstrate that American representations of the Orient often revealed more about prevailing American attitudes than about the foreign cultures they purported to depict.

Beginning with a comprehensive overview of the period, this richly documented catalogue identifies the ways in which American artists such as Frederic Church, Louis Comfort Tiffany, and Maxfield Parrish appropriated, combined, and adapted existing Orientalist tropes to create a distinctly American view of the Orient. The texts demonstrate that as picturesque scenes of the Holy Land gave way to more exotic—and often erotic—images, the Orient continued to provide a vehicle for romantic fantasy and escapism well into the 1920s, whether in fraternal organizations such as the Shriners, in advertising for tobacco and other products, or in the fashion craze for harem pants and turbans. The role of women in Orientalism is reappraised through close examination of stereotypes such as the harem girl and the belly dancer, as well as through discussion of works by prominent female artists and writers. Popular representations of the sheik, from Lawrence of Arabia to Rudolph Valentino, are examined within the context of contemporary issues of race, gender, and political domination.

Published to accompany a traveling exhibition organized by the Sterling and Francine Clark Art Institute, this handsome volume will appeal to scholars and general readers alike. Featuring more than one hundred color plates, and with essays by specialists in Islamic art and culture, architectural history, and anthropology as well as American art, it goes beyond the traditional scope of museum catalogues to provide a multifaceted look at a remarkable phenomenon in American cultural history.

256 pages, 9 x 12 inches
115 color and 72 black-and-white illustrations
Published in association with Princeton University Press

ISBN 0-691-05003-1 (hardcover)
ISBN 0-691-05004-X (softcover)