The Roots of Romantic Topoi: A Local Intercultural Encounter and a Glocal Transcultural Experience


Many critics have speculated on the influence of Western literature on English romantic poets. Mainstream scholars have often referred to Greek, Roman, and Western sources, attributing the genealogy of romantic topoi to the West, while turning a blind eye to the impact of non-Western culture. As a result, the influence of Arabic materials on English Romantic poetry during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries remains insufficiently recognized. The present study challenges the pervasive assumption that English Romantic poets were influenced mainly by the Western philosophical, religious, and literary sources. Instead, it provides evidence supporting the view that the roots of romantic topoi derive from both intercultural encounters and transcultural experiences. In particular, the role played by Oriental, Arab, and Muslim writers in helping English romantic poets develop their themes, characters, imagery, and narrative modes is discussed. Moreover, Arab-Islamic influences on Western literature is acknowledged to rectify the misconception that romantic topoi solely resulted from the Western intercultural encounters. The analyses presented in the paper demonstrate that Arabic and Islamic sources inspired British romantic poets like Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Keats, helping them not only in finding their own voices but also in developing their themes, metaphors, symbols, characters, and images.


Mounir Al-Jilani Ben Zid


Arabic-Islamic sources, intercultural encounter, romantic topoi, roots, transcultural experience.