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Date 2021-03-12


When the East Encounters the Orient: Desert Romance and Its Transcultural Imagination


Lin, Fang-Mei

Professor, Department of Taiwan Culture, Languages and Literature, National Taiwan Normal University


This study intends to examine and explore “Desert romance” published in Taiwan since 2000. As a sub-genre of English romance, desert romance is also called “Sheik romance.” The storyline begins with a white girl who travels to a Middle-East desert, is abducted by an Arab sheik, and the two of them fall in love. I aim to explore in what ways desert romance reproduces and in the meantime transforms Orientalism as defined by Said. Desert romance in Taiwan figures a Taiwan girl as the heroine, and keeps the major narrative elements intact, such as abduction, the sheik, violence, harem, sexual seduction, the eroticized imagination about the Middle-East, and the low status of women in Arab society. Said argues that Orientalism is developed by the West as a discursive formation in order to define the self of the West and to control the Orient. This research continues the critique of Orientalism on the one hand, and on the other hand discusses in what ways desert romance produced and consumed by women repeats and subverts the negative stereotype of the Middle-East. As part of East Asia, how Taiwan defines herself in contrast to the West and the Middle-East? Through the perspective of transcultural flow, I intend to reconfigure the triangle relationship between the West, the Self as the East (Taiwan), and the Other as the Orient (the Islamic Arabs). Finally, by using the perspective of cultural translation, I want to examine how Taiwan romance appropriates and transforms romance translated from the West, mainly England.

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Bulletin of Taiwanese Literature