chapter  4
13 Pages

Resolving The Corsair: Lara and The Island 1

WithLeask Nigel

Nigel Leask argues that Lord Byron’s verse narratives experiment with the transgressive fantasy of ‘turning Turk’, and the horror this induces has the effect of sustaining oppositions between East and West. Leask traces Byron’s complicity with, and anxiety about, the ideology of orientalism in The Corsair. The discussion of Lara Claridge suggests that the poem is aware of its Oriental complex, and that the figure of Lara is a condensation of the West’s psychotic involvement with the East. Turning to the later stages of Byron’s career, Leask finds the historical and social conflicts are suspended in the cadences of the utopian dream poem The Island. Byron’s Island is an anticolonial reworking of the theme of Robinson Crusoe, in which the condition of castaway is chosen rather than providentially inflicted and in which humanity is seen to depend on the abandonment, rather than the education, of the values of homo economicus.