Essays in Romanticism

The Empire of the Page: Footnotes in Byron’s The Giaour

Essays in Romanticism (2017), 24, (1), 35–52.

Abstract

George Gordon, Lord Byron’s premier Turkish tale, The Giaour (1813), incorporates mock-editorial annotations that push the boundaries of genre and authority within the poem. Byron claims the storyline to be drawn from a Turkish storyteller, which he then translates and remediates into English verse fragments curated with his extensive annotations. Reading the central poetic text as Eastern (fragmented, romantic) and the annotations as Western (linear, objective), this essay emphasizes how margins can be used to subvert and disrupt the narrative of the main page by attempting to unify the narrative as a whole. Byron, in his editorial voice of the notes, seems to take a colonial stance—even while the poem itself remains markedly anti-colonial in tone. The result is what I term “textual imperialism”: the many footnotes force the fragmented Eastern poem into a linear, objective model of Western scholarship.

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Author details

Knezevich, Ruth