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Imaging Suli

Interactions between Philhellenic Ideas and Greek Identity Discourse

Ewa Róża Janion

Suli is a mountainous land in Epirus in northwestern Greece. This book collates its Greek 19th-century vision with the European view in the works of English, French, Italian, and Polish philhellenes. Investigating the interactions between various images of Suli, it analyses its functioning in different European cultures: the first historical mentions of Suli, the role of Byron’s poems in shaping its image, Greek folk songs about female fighters from Suli, and the mass suicide of Suliote women known as the Dance of Zalongo. Especially the legend about the bravery of the Suliotes has been important in Greek national discourse and the study follows the threads of the legend formed by Greek intellectuals and the European Philhellenes.
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Between Westernization and Orientalism: Byron’s Discovery of Suli


The central issue of this chapter is the vision of Suli presented in Canto the Second of Byron’s narrative poem Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage. It will be argued that Byron established a new pattern of European perception and description of Suli, as well as creating an original vision of Albania that long dominated European imagery. This claim will be supported by a survey of the 19th-century poetical travelogues from Suli and Greece.

The argument is structured in chronological order. First, I will present an earlier vision of Suli constructed by two English poets who, at the beginning of the 19th century, resided relatively close to Suli, in Corfu. Suli, not yet famous, is only a secondary topic in these poems, so the material is limited to 48 lines of poetry. I will aim at tracing the dependence of this image on the modern classicism in ethical, aesthetic and political thought.

Secondly, I will discuss the philosophical assumptions of the vision of Suli given by Byron’s travel companion, John Cam Hobhouse. I will argue that despite the fact that both travelers shared the majority of their experiences in Greece, their perception of Suli is completely different, due to the dissimilarity of their worldviews, ways of reasoning and narrative strategies.

Against the aforementioned background, I will discuss the Byronic vision of Suli and the Suliotes. The central analytical categories of my study will be relativistic philosophy, the aesthetic of exoticism and the modern anthropological clich...

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