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Walter Scott and the Islamic East: Ivanhoe and the Talisman

Nisreen Tawfiq Yousef


This paper examines representations of the Islamic East in two novels by Sir Walter Scott: Ivanhoe (1820) and The Talisman (1825). The paper’s argument is that Scott’s representations of the Islamic East seems influenced in very specific ways by dominant nineteenth-century portrayals of the East. Scott’s two novels present ambivalent depictions of the East, some of which deviate from standard patterns of representation of earlier centuries. For instance, on the one hand his novels attribute positive spiritual qualities to Saracens such as generosity, bravery and kindness to animals, while on the other, and often in the same passage, they sometimes depict Saracens as violent and atavistic. I argue that, through his various narrators and characters, Scott depicts the relationship between the Islamic East and the Christian West as a significant form of cultural interaction whereby the East is presented as complementing the West. However, Scott’s portrayal of East-West relation is complex, and it would be inaccurate to claim that this denotes total acceptance of Islamic manners, customs and perspectives. 


Sir Walter Scott; Historical novel; Orientalism; Representations of the Islamic East; The East and the West

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