Literary License and the West's Romance with Afghanistan analyzes the role literature and poetic sensibility played in colonial British and American writings on Afghanistan from the nineteenth through the twenty-first centuries. It also considers the role that literature and literariness, itself, have played in western discourses framing Afghanistan. The British Romantic Orientalists of the 19th century studied the region in-depth and were drawn to what they perceived as an alien space where they could remake themselves in print and in life. These writers and those who followed including scholars, civil servants, and wives or professional women were inspired by the region and sometimes crossed ethnic, national, and imaginative boundaries. This book explores the connections that were forged in print through fantastic and familiar assumptions regarding the region and its people.
Zubeda Jalalzai is professor of English at Rhode Island College in Providence.
Chapter 1: Scandals Old and New Alexander Gardner and Greg Mortenson
Chapter 2: Drawing Boundaries: Early East India Co. Writers
George Forster, Mountstuart Elphinstone, Alexander Burnes, and Arthur Conolly
Chapter 3: Oriental Tales: from Poems and Legends to the Novel
Charles Masson, James Abbott, Sir Mortimer Durand
Chapter 4: Hybridity, Frontier Marriages, and the New Woman: S. S. Thorburn, Maud Diver, Lillias Hamilton, and Morag Murray Abdullah
Chapter 5: The Romance of Return: Anti-Imperialist Nostalgia and Writings of the 9/11 Era Jason Elliot, Rory Stuart, Tamim Ansary, Saira Shah, Khaled Hosseini
Conclusion: Lessons Learned? New Fiction from Afghanistan, and how to write about Afghanistan
About the author
"This study is both broad and detailed, ranging from East India Company writings about Afghanistan to more recent works about Afghanistan, their controversies and their reception. A recommended read for anyone interested in the history of ideas about the country and the many conflicts that have been fought on Afghan soil."
“In this fascinating literary history, Zubeda Jalalzai surveys two centuries of Anglophone writing on Afghanistan that blurred the line between fact and fantasy. Revealing the seductive power of prose, she shows how even authors of Afghan origin were ultimately drawn into this romantic mythopoesis.”
"Zubeda Jalalzai gives us a chronological look at depictions of Afghanistan by writers from the West (including Afghan emigrants such as myself). In the process, she teases out the many strands of agenda, intention, convention, context and perspective—political, personal, literary, social, historical and cultural—that shape and color these writers’ depictions of Afghanistan. How the imagined Afghanistan developed by Western writers relates to the actuality of Afghanistan as a whole remains a question, but that answer lies outside the scope of Jalalzai’s work and perhaps anyone's. What she’s given us does sharpen at least this reader's appetite to go on seeking that answer, even as it suggests the futility such a search must finally entail, given the subtleties, nuances, and complexity of the noumenon that is Afghanistan."