Edward W. Said Biography


Edward William Said (sah-EED) was an articulate and politically sophisticated American critic of literary theory, and he came to be regarded as one of the postcolonial world’s most influential intellectuals. The son of Wadie A. and Hilda (Musa) Said, he was educated in Palestine and in Cairo, Egypt, before moving to the United States in 1948. After studying at Princeton and Harvard Universities, he was in 1963 appointed to the comparative literature faculty of Columbia University; he was also a frequent visiting professor at many other major universities. He made his home in New York City, writing, lecturing, and playing piano. His love for music was reflected in his discussions with Israeli-born conductor Daniel Barenboim about politics and culture, published in 2002 as Parallels and Paradoxes, which ranges across a variety of topics including the power of music and literature to transcend political boundaries.

There were four separate strands in Said’s writing, which began to come together in the 1970’s: scholarship on individual authors, such as Jonathan Swift, Gerard Manley Hopkins, and Joseph Conrad; the estimating and mapping of emerging critical theory, by reviewing it as well as incorporating it in his own original theoretical work; musical criticism; and political work on behalf of the Palestinians (in 1991, after a diagnosis of chronic leukemia, he resigned from the Palestinian National Council, the parliament-in-exile, in protest over Yasir Arafat’s peace accord with Israel). The moment of this conflation was the year he spent as a fellow at the Center for...

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Ansell-Pearson, Keith, Benita Parry, and Judith Squires, eds. Cultural Readings of Imperialism: Edward Said and the Gravity of History. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997. A collection of essays that address postcolonialism, literature, and philosophy in the light of Said’s scholarship.

Ashcroft, Bill. Edward Said: The Paradox of Identity. New York: Routledge, 1999. One of the best introductions to Said’s scholarly ideas and journalistic work for students.

Bové, Paul A., ed. Edward Said and the Work of the Critic: Speaking Truth to Power. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2000. Collects essays on Said’s thoughts about the role of criticism in today’s world.

Bové, Paul A., ed. Edward W. Said. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1998. A collection of essays by scholars in the wide variety of fields to which Said contributed, including literary criticism, postcolonial studies, musicology, Middle Eastern Studies, anthropology, and journalism.

Gare, A. E. “Understanding Oriental Cultures.” Philosophy East and West 45 (July, 1995). Addresses the impact Said’s ideas have had on scholarship in various disciplines.

Makiya, Kanan. Cruelty and Silence: War, Tyranny, Uprising, and the Arab World. New York: W. W. Norton, 1993. Discusses the charge that Said was not as critical of Arab dictators as he was of Western democracies.

Said, Edward W. Interview by David Barsamian. The Progressive, November, 2001. Said discusses what actions he thinks the United States should take in response to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Sprinker, Michael, ed. Edward Said: A Critical Reader. Cambridge, Mass.: Blackwell, 1993. A thorough introduction to Said’s thought.

Varadharajan, Asha. Exotic Parodies: Subjectivity in Adorno, Said, and Spivak. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1995. A comparative study.