Inventing Ruritania

The Imperialism of the Imagination
Goldsworthy, Vesna
Date published: 
January 1998

Since the 1800s, the Balkans - the 'Wild East' of Europe - have offered a rich mine of raw material for the literature and entertainment industries in Western Europe and America. In this process of imaginative colonisation, products developed in the West - lands such as Bram Stoker's Transylvania (in Dracula) and Anthony Hope's Ruritania (in The Prisoner of Zenda) - became lucrative brand-names which remain much better known than their real counterparts. Vesna Goldsworthy's pioneering study argues that the imperialism of the imagination inflicted on the Balkans has had insidious but little-recognised consequences. Religious, national and sexual taboos, frequently projected on to the region, still influence Western attitudes and political responses. Based on Western and Eastern European sources, letters, diaries, personal interviews and the author's own extensive experience of the Balkans, this highly readable work offers an incisive and extremely topical anlaysis of social and political exploitation, and of the media uses of archetypes created by literature and film, opening up radically new territories in the field of cultural studies.