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Title:Two Lost American Plays: Ideas of the Muslim Barbary Orient
Author:Obeidat, Marwan M.
Periodical:Maghreb Review
Geographic terms:Maghreb
United States
traditional polities
Literature, Mass Media and the Press
History and Exploration
Religion and Witchcraft
Abstract:Americans first met the Muslim Orient through the Tripolitanian Wars waged to put an end to the capture of American sailors by the Barbary pirates from the coastal areas of North Africa. Barbary-oriented literature, consisting mainly of captivity reports, travel narratives, and a few novels and plays, introduced Americans to the Muslim East. This essay analyses certain stereotypes, ideas, and images arising from two lost American plays with Barbary themes to see what the Muslim Orient suggested to 19th-century America. These are Richard Penn Smith's 'The bombardment of Algiers' (1829), an unplayed melodrama preserved by the Historical Society of Pennsylvania, and Joseph Stevens Jones's 'The usurper: or, Americans in Tripoli' (1841). The two plays are considered lost because they have been discovered relatively recently, and have remained in obscurity. The impact of certain ideas from these plays has been particularly pervasive because there are few later works in which the Orient is depicted in favourable terms. As a result, the average American reader continues to perceive the Muslim Orient in terms of these unflattering, distorted ideas. Notes, ref., sum.