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Kubla Khan

In: English and Literature

Submitted By jaweria
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Analysis of ‘Kubla Khan’ regarding Colonial Discourse: As a product of the complex discursive web of the 18th century, the Orientalist Coleridge could not act out of such historical forces as colonialism that had gone into shaping him and his poetry.He, in post colonial discourse, was unable to go parallel with the theory of ‘Arts for Arts sake’ and ‘Willing Suspension of Disbelief’.
In Kubla Khan,Coleridge is trying to establish the heagemony of Abyssinian Christianity which according to him is more pure and can only be revived by colonizers by the song of Abyssinian maid. These lines make this idea more clear:

Could I revive within me Her symphony and song, To such deep delight ‘twould win me That with music loud and long, I would build that dome within the air!

It is showing his hatred of corrupt religion of the East. His desire is to free mankind from political tyranny of tyrannical despots represented in the figure of Kubla. Although Kubla Khan was the conqueror and master of the world ... in Coleridge's view he was really no more than a passing historical representative cast up from the central 'Romantic chasm' . Kubla, a man of military skill and known for his administrative capabilities was called by the Mongols as Setsen Khan (The Wise Khan). He conquered China and established the Mongol dynasty, unifying the nation for the first time since the T'ang regime. Following the teachings of his mother, he tolerated all religions in the area, helping to win acceptance of Mongol rule by the Chinese.This shows how Coleridge uses religious institution in colonial discourse.

Analysis of ‘Kubla Khan’ regarding Colonial Ideology:

The operation of ideologies through contemporary texts was so strong that Coleridge felt he had the right to change his material in order to suit his and his audience’s Western appetite. It was Western reconstruction of the Middle East Culture that was always a source of imagination to him.The identification of the Abyssinian land as a distant one with the Abyssinian maid reminds us of McClintock’s (1995) belief that “the myth of the empty land is the myth of the virgin land” (p. 364) which confirms a colonizer’s colonial look at a feminine East waiting to be conquered.
In Kubla Khan, colonial ideologies of the superiority of the colonizers and otherness of colonized has been shown. Drinking the milk of paradise as one of the best creatures already enjoying the privileges of blessed spirits is showing their superiority.

For he on honeydew hath fed, And drunk the milk of Paradise!

The otherness of the garden is reflected in this poem: there is no musicality in the poem and the stanzas are neither coherent nor regular; the poem is full of anxiety and strange names; sound effects are lush; and the sub-title is A Vision in a Dream. A Fragment is anti conventional. There is “holy dread” in the garden suggesting beauty and terror.
And there were gardens bright with sinuous rills, Where blossomed many an incense-bearing tree;

Analysis of ‘Kubla Khan’ regarding Representation of Colonial Place and Colonial Subject:
In Kubla Khan representation of colonial place has been shown by remoteness,binary opposition,superstitious as well as destructive attitudes.The scene of this poem is never laid in a familiar place. Coleridge takes us to remote, unknown regions and to distant times-mostly middle ages (Xanadu) .Through binary opposition, he is representing colonial place as more prominent like pleasuredome is set in opposition to the sacred river; the measured and finite ("twice five miles," "girdled round") against the "measureless"; the convex shape of the dome against the concave imagery of caverns, chasm, and caves; surface spaces against the subterranean; "sunny" against "sunless"; "fertile" against "lifeless"; sacred against demonic; green and icy; tumult and quiet; light and dark and so on.The journey towards imperfection,darkness and disorder of colonized place has been shown. Final destination of holy river is a place of extreme darkness and indefinite depth (down to a sunless sea). Love between humans and demonic powers, earth finally bringing up the cause of the trouble breathing ... in fast thick pants is also present. Kubla is representing superstition and absolute power e.g; superstitious practices of the Tartar/Chinese astrologers or magicians, who arranged to have Kubla Khan throw the milk of the beasts they held in reverence both in the air and on the earth for the spirits and the idols they worshiped to drink, in the hope that such deities would then preserve the men.The concept of sacred river is particularly Hindu or Eastern,for only in the East do people Treat Rivers as holy.In ancient times the moon has been associated with all occult manifestations and powers.
The underground commotion made by the river or by some panting force strikes us as fearful, for it suggests earthquakes.Some idea of the tremendous violence felt by the earth may be formed from the poet’s description of rocks and boulders being scattered about like the chaff by the winnower of newly harvested grain. By describing the shadow of the dome of pleasure as moving the poet conveys to us the idea of how the waters are disturbed and so the images formed on the surface of the stream are also disturbed.

The shadow of the Dome of Pleasure Floated midway on the waves, Where was heard the mingled measure From the fountain and the caves.

There is association of arrival of destruction in near future by colonial subject e.g;

And ‘mid this tumult, Kublai heard from far Ancestral voices prophesying war!

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