Based on his experiences during a journey through mainland Southeast Asia in 1923, Somerset Maugham wrote a book of colonial travel entitled The Gentleman in the Parlour
. As the work of one of the most popular writers of the twentieth century, Maugham’s travelogue both expressed and helped to shape contemporary thinking about Southeast Asia and Western imperialism. Focusing especially on his representations of Burma and Cambodia, an analysis is presented of Maugham’s book in the light of postcolonial scholarship, especially the theoretical insights developed under the inspiration of Edward Said’s Orientalism
. Despite its pretensions to be apolitical, Maugham’s travel book is shown to be a repository of Western colonial ideas and attitudes, integrally involved in the circulation of the prevailing European discourse of high imperialism. As such, it is a valuable resource for historians and other scholars who wish to understand the way that discourse worked at the level of popular literature.
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