Essays in Romanticism

Domestic Extremism and De Quincey's "A-muck" Malay

Essays in Romanticism (2014), 21, (1), 17–34.

Abstract

In addition to elements of phantasmagorical prose-poem, medical treatise and candid autobiography, De Quincey’s hybrid text, Confessions of an English Opium-Eater, less obviously utilizes the diverse genres of the familiar essay and travel writing. A tension between these genres, predisposed respectively to the domestic and the foreign, brings about an implosive, pre-colonial mode and historical moment of Orientalism. More specifically, this moment involves the opium-eater’s hedging, tentative identity, as an “essayistic” amalgam of ludic periodical writer, pseudo philosopher and effete, armchair traveller, and his congruently unwitting, casual usage of the racially-loaded word “amok”. This is a word of Malay derivation, which is used to (in)appropriately describe the Malay figure’s rampaging, fearful presence amid the Asian geography of the opium-eater’s dreams.

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Author details

Hull, Simon