Essays in Romanticism

Byron’s Cosmopolitan “East”

Essays in Romanticism (2020), 27, (2), 167–185.


This essay examines the first four of Lord Byron’s Eastern Tales, crafted in the immediate success of Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. I argue that these tales constitute an example of Byron’s cosmopolitanism forged directly by his early-career aesthetic and Orientalist inventions. I challenge any fixed notion of Byron’s identifying traits of cosmopolitanism and trace his creation of a textualized and simulated “East.” This “East” is depicted in terms of Byron’s competing personal, aesthetic, and cultural impulses. These impulses culminate in his fourth tale, Lara, and the myth of the cosmopolitan figure for which Byron’s heroic subjectivity became known. By expanding the poet’s subjectivity beyond clear cultural and geographical borders, these tales also raise the question of literary scale and the limits and boundaries of poetic form and content—how to adequately represent the individual poetic subject during an era of shifting global and cosmopolitan relations.

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Author details

Kim, Joey S.