Guy MacLean Rogers
In a recent essay entitled "The Question of Orientalism" ( Lewis 1993) the distinguished historian Bernard Lewis has attempted to explain how the terms "Orientalism" and "Orientalist" have been emptied of their previous meanings and endowed with new ones for the sake of contemporary creeds or causes. According to Lewis, the term "Orientalist" first was attached to a group of artists, mostly from western Europe, who visited the Middle East and North Africa and portrayed what they saw or imagined. The term "Orientalism" was also used to describe an academic discipline, which originally focused upon the study of Hebrew; later the boundaries of the discipline were expanded to include other eastern languages.
In the later twentieth century, mostly for reasons of nationalism and ideology, some scholars have used the term "Orientalism" to condemn a tradition of scholarship which is allegedly hostile to or unsympathetic with the peoples of the East that it studies. To explain how such a shift in the meaning of the term has come about, Lewis invites his readers to indulge in a kind of scholarly fantasy, imagining a situation in which a group of "patriots and radicals from Greece have decided that the profession of classical studies is insulting to the great heritage of Hellas and that those engaged in these studies, known as classicists, are the latest manifestation of a deep and evil conspiracy, incubated for centuries, hatched in Western Europe, fledged in America, the purpose of which is to denigrate the Greek achievement and subjugate the