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Two The Rise of the Desert Romance Novel Could, in truth, East mate with West? Would not the separate viewpoints of the two clash, make discord instead of harmony? Customs, religion, standards of various kinds would be at variance between the two; and would it be the part of the woman to forget her heritage, to yield up her private convictions, to sink in many ways her individuality? KaTHlyn rHodes, The DeserT Lovers A t the age of thirty-two, Domini Enfilden is released from the burden of caring for her father—a harsh, embittered man whose half-Hungarian wife eloped with a musician while Domini was still a child. Orphaned, unmarried, alone in the world, but endowed with fortune and freedom for the first time in her life, Domini flees “England and the people mewed up in it for the winter.” She has had enough of doing dreary “things without savour, without meaning, without salvation for brain or soul” (5). Looking for purpose and passion, she boards a ship for North Africa. She wanted freedom, a wide horizon, the great winds, the great sun, the terrible spaces, the glowing, shimmering radiance, the hot, entrancing moons and bloomy, purple nights of Africa. She wanted the nomad’s fires and the acid voices of the Kabyle dogs. She wanted the roar of the tom-toms, the dash of the cymbals, the rattle of the negroes’ castanets, the fluttering, painted figures of the dancers. She wanted—more than she could express, more than she knew. (5) THe rise of THe deserT roMance novel « 69 » What Domini wanted, British and American readers apparently wanted as well—more than they knew, but certainly not more than Robert Smythe Hichens could express. Hichens’s The Garden of Allah was published in 1904 and ran through five editions in that year alone, with seven more editions published in 1905.The novel took America by storm: department stores and restaurants were draped in “Garden of Allah” themes, while “Garden of Allah” lamps, objets d’arts, and perfumes were developed for the burgeoning Orientalist consumer market in the States (Edwards 45). The Garden was adapted into a spectacular and successful play in New York in 1909, featuring whirling sandstorms and camels on stage.The first Hollywood film version of the book premiered in 1916 and was remade in 1927, and in 1936, when Marlene Dietrich’s and Charles Boyer’s respective portrayals of the tragic, star-crossed lovers Domini and the renegade Trappist monk Boris Androvsky were immortalized in the tagline “They loved each other with the fierceness of those who have been denied love!” The Garden of Allah launched the early twentieth-century craze for the “desert romance,” a romantic subgenre that The Sheik capitalized on and transformed in the 1920s. In this chapter, I examine the rise of the desert romance novel as a subgenre. I begin by considering the tropes that characterized the Orientalist romance novel in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries; motifs such as spirituality and the occult, the sexualization of the Sahara Desert in Hichens’s novel, and the exploration of new woman issues such as women’s sexuality, marriage, and miscegenation . These topics, which concerned romance novelists from the late nineteenth century through to the 1920s, when the desert romance reached the height of its popularity, are also evident in the Hollywood films that tried to cash in on the success of Famous Players-Lasky’s The Sheik (1921). Because The Sheik merits its own chapter, so that it can be discussed at length, I leave Hull’s novel to the next chapter and focus here on changes in the desert romance. THe rise of THe deserT roMance novel By the time The Garden of Allah was published in 1904, the romance novel had been going strong for more than one-and-a-half centuries . Scholars of romance novels usually trace the foundational plots and characters of the genre back to Samuel Richardson’s Pamela (1740), Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice (1813), and Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre « 70 » Desert Passions (1847) (Ramsdell 6, Dubino 103, Regis 16, 63). These are novels whose heroes and heroines, cast of supporting characters, and archetypal romantic plots are still easily recognizable in countless romance novels today. However, they were by no means typical of the average romance novel in the nineteenth century. In Britain and the United States, nineteenthcentury romance novels were distinguished by their sentimentality, intense religiosity, and moral and inspirational...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780292739390
Related ISBN
9780292739383
MARC Record
OCLC
813844932
Launched on MUSE
2012-10-19
Language
English
Open Access
No
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