Vitana Kostdinova

Western Visions



The understanding of Occidentalism underlying this presentation does not fall back on the definition articulated by Ian Buruma: “Something else is going on, which my co-author, Avishai Margalit, and I call Occidentalism (the title of our new book): a war against a particular idea of the West… .”1 I would rather use the term in the manner put forward by James Carrier in his preface to Occidentalism: Images of the West, as “the representation of the West by Western subjects” (which goes hand in hand with projecting the Orient as the Other), and “that constructed by non-Western subjects”2. Lindstrom (Carrier 1995) achieves finer terminological tuning by securing “Occidentalism” for “the discourse among Orientals about the West,” whereas “the self-discourse of Westerners” he calls “auto-Occidentalism”.

As illustrative of such visions of the West I would like to offer a parallel between Bulgarian projections of the West as in the first decades of the 20th century, and the auto-images of the West as constructed by the texts translated into Bulgarian at the time. A sample of representations of the West in Byron’s Don Juan, translated in prose in 1919, reveals the author’s fiddling with foreign stereotypes of England to the effect of creating an ambivalent vision of Englishness in the text as seen from both the inside and the outside. Byron’s juxtaposition of East and West in the text will be measured against the different levels of contrasting the Orient and the Occident in the Bulgarian press of the period – with a range from publications of literary criticism as “Eastern and Western Art” in the Vezni journal to stereotyped images of West-European nations.

As a follow up, with a representative selection of data, the analysis of Bulgarian images of the West could be integrated in discussing the processes of constructing Bulgarian national identity.



1 Buruma, Ian. “The Origins of Occidentalism”. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Chronicle Review. 6th Feb. 2004. http://chronicle.com/free/v50/i22/22b01001.htm; accessed on 25th Feb. 2005.top

2 Perrius, Christopher Alan. “Review on Occidentalism: Images of the West . Ed. James G. Carrier. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.” http://social.chass.ncsu.edu/jouvert/v1i1/perrius.htm; accessed on 26th Feb 2005. top


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