The Talented Mr. Psalmanazar - A Footnote to an Enlightened England, by Elena Butoescu

22nd May 2006

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Monday 22 May 2006, 19.00-21.00, The Romanian Cultural Centre, 8th floor, 54-62 Regent Street, London W1B 5RE; Tel. 020 7439 4052, ext 102; e-mail: Click here to see images from this event. "Considered a 'minor model of fraud and repentance', a man who called himself George Psalmanazar, and who was the fabricator of a country and a language, based his imaginary description of the island of Formosa on a credulous and ignorant early eighteenth century English public. He made his appearance in London in 1703 pretending to have come from Formosa, an island subject to the emperor of Japan, according to his own statements. In 1704 he published An Historical and Geographical Description of Formosa, which was so successful that a second ‘improved’ edition was issued the following year, containing considerable changes dictated not by the chronology of his voyage, but by that of the reading experience. Not only was he believed by the Royal Society in London, the patron of travellers, which sponsored his stay in Oxford to teach the so-called Formosan language at Christ College, but his imaginary account was also used as a source of inspiration for the writings of that time, such as Oliver Goldsmith’s The Citizen of the World, or Swift's Gulliver's Travels and An Account of the Court and Empire of Japan. There are so many issues regarding this topic that haven't been dealt with so far, that after considering almost all the studies and articles about or related to Psalmanazar, I feel a new and fresh approach to the topic should be made. Psalmanazar should be reconsidered. It is worthwhile taking all these into consideration and cast a little doubt over the sentence all his judges have agreed upon: guilty of imposture." (Elena Butoescu) Elena Butoescu is a Junior Lecturer in English Studies at the University of Craiova, Romania. She holds an MA in British Cultural Studies from the University of Bucharest, Romania and is currently enrolled in a PhD programme at the same University. Her research interests include eighteenth century studies, cultural theory, and the literature of migrant writers within the Western metropolis. She has attended various conferences and seminars on British Studies, both in Romania and abroad and has published articles and reviews on topics as diverse as eighteenth century travel literature, and post-modern and postcolonial studies. At present, she is conducting PhD research at Cambridge University Library, having been granted a scholarship by the Ratiu Family Foundation in London. This presentation is part of the CULTURE POWER program which is initiated by the Ratiu Foundation UK. The program consists of a series of seminars focused around a presentation followed by a constructive dialogue with an invited audience. Organised by The Ratiu Foundation UK Details on