Europe’s fascination with the, East, or “Orient,” has a complicated and often contradictory history. From the time of Alexander the Great to Marco Polo to Lawrence of Arabia, European scholars, linguists, writers, artists, and explorers have depicted the “Orient” as sometimes sophisticated, exotic, mysterious, barbaric, dangerous, or debauched. In doing so, they constructed both a disciplinary field called “Orientalism” as well as a powerful narrative of civilization that pitted “East” against “West.” Using a flexible historical approach, this seminar will explore selected cases studies of cultural encounters between Europe and the "Orient" from Antiquity to the present. Our main text and guide in this course will be Edward Said’s seminal 1978 book Orientalism . We will also read selections from the field broadly defined as “postcolonialism,” which called for a more complex understanding of how gender, class, power, race, and nationalism shaped the construction and reproduction of knowledge. How do imperialism and knowledge production intersect? Can they be disentangled? Do Orientalist constructs still shape our own understandings of “East” and “West,” and our own production of knowledge, still to this day? In answering these questions, we will engage various texts, including primary sources, non-fiction, literature, and theory. Through these readings, class discussions, and weekly writing exercises leading to formal essays, we will explore and write about complex issues of identity, race, exile, multiculturalism, and religious fundamentalism. Readings may include William Jones, Victor Hugo, J. S. Mill, Karl Marx, Rudyard Kipling, E. M. Forster, Franz Fanon, Timothy Mitchell, and V. S. Naipaul.