Thursday, September 25, 2003

The literary world has lost one of its giants in Post-Colonial criticism. Edward Said, author of Orientalism, died today.

I'll have to find a better Said-related article than the one I linked above. That one focuses too much on his writings about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. It doesn't even scratch the surface when it comes to his contributions to literary theory.

The Edward Said Archive has a good collection of his recent writings (again, the concentration is on Israel-Palestine.)

A sample from Said's introduction to Orientalism:

It is rather a distribution of geopolitical awareness into aesthetic, scholarly, economic, sociological, historical, and philological texts; it is an elaboration not only of a basic geographical distinction (the world is made up of two unequal halves, Orient and Occident) but also of a whole series of 'interests' which, by such means as scholarly discovery, philological reconstruction, psychological analysis, landscape and sociological description, it not only creates but also maintains;


The kind of political questions raised by Orientalism, then, are as follows: What other sorts of intellectual, aesthetic, scholarly, and cultural energies went into the making of an imperialist tradition like the Orientalist one? How did philology, lexicography, history, biology, political and economic theory, novel-writing, and lyric poetry come to the service of Orientalism's broadly imperialist view of the world? [...] In fine, how can we treat the cultural, historical phenomenon of Orientalism as a kind of
willed human work--not of mere unconditioned ratiocination--in all its historical complexity, detail, and worth without at the same time losing sight of the alliance between cultural work, political tendencies, the state, and the specific realities of domination?**

Still very potent, provocative questions today, but even more so when Said asked them in 1978.

**Said, Edward W. "From the Introduction to Orientalism." THE CRITICAL TRADITION: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Ed. David H. Richter. 2nd ed. Boston: Bedford/St.Martin’s, 1998. 1279-1292.

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