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Keywords:

  • Romantics;
  • Coleridge;
  • Kubla Khan;
  • opium;
  • India;
  • Berlioz;
  • tantrism;
  • women

ABSTRACT

Natalie Zemon Davis's work has decentered the identities of her subjects as part of seeing their complexity. This essay, inspired by Davis's rich thought and scholarship, looks at the ways in which the Romantics in the arts decentered their thought and practices away from the West. Their decentering involved serious study of non-Western thought and its incorporation into their art, and the regular use of opium to shape their creative works. One borrowed theme was transcendence to a higher mode of existence, often through sexual union with a woman. So influential did Romantic tropes, themes, and images derived from outside the West become that they persisted in Western culture long after the Romantics themselves had lost interest in the body of non-Western culture from which they drew. Examples include the work of Samuel Coleridge, Walter Scott, Hector Berlioz, the Schlegel brothers, Caroline Günderode, Sidney Owenson, and others.