Edward W. Said Criticism - Essay

Albert Hourani (review date 8 March 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Road to Morocco," in The New York Review of Books, Vol. 26, March 8, 1979, pp. 27-30.

[In the following review, Hourani details the principal arguments of Orientalism, discussing their strengths and weaknesses.]

The theme of this powerful and disturbing book [Orientalism] is the way in which intellectual traditions are created and transmitted. They do not simply arise, Edward Said argues, in the solitude of a thinker's or a scholar's mind. The scholar may "attempt to reach a level of relative freedom from … brute, everyday reality," but he can never quite escape or ignore his "involvement as a human subject in his own circumstances."...

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Leon Wieseltier (review date 7 April 1979)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Orientalism, in The New Republic, Vol. 180, No. 14, April 7, 1979, pp. 27-33.

[In the harsh review below, Wieseltier demonstrates how politics inform many of Said's arguments in Orientalism, suggesting that "the methodological gadgetry and 'iconoclastic' analysis of his book issue in little more than the abject canards of Arab propaganda."]

Edward Said's angry book [Orientalism] is about a collusion of knowledge with power. The knowledge is Orientalism and the power is imperialism. Said contends that images of the Orient in the West's traditions of learning and literature are of a piece with the institutions of conquest and...

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Edward Said with Salman Rushdie (interview date 1986)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "On Palestinian Identity: A Conversation with Edward Said," in Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991, Granta Books, 1991, pp. 166-84.

[In the following interview which took place at the PEN Congress in New York in 1986, Said discusses the identity of the Palestinian conscious based on historical and literary themes in his writings.]

For those of us who see the struggle between Eastern and Western descriptions of the world as both an internal and an external struggle, Edward Said has for many years been an especially important voice. Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia and author of literary criticism on, among others,...

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Dinitia Smith (essay date 23 January 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Arafat's Man in New York," in New York, Vol. 22, No. 4, January 23, 1989, pp. 40-6.

[In the essay below, Smith provides an overview of Said's life and career.]

On the afternoon of December 14, a Columbia University professor returning home from London, where he'd delivered a lecture on Yeats, pushed open the door of his Morningside Heights apartment and found his wife and two children gathered around the television set. History was being made.

It was history that Edward Said, a Palestinian-born professor of English and comparative literature, had helped create. Said joined his family around the TV and listened as Secretary of State George P....

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Edward Said with Bonnie Marranca, Marc Robinson, and Una Chaudhuri (interview date March 1989)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Criticism, Culture, and Performance," in Performing Arts Journal, Vol. 1, No. 37, January, 1991, pp. 21-42.

[In the following interview, which originally took place in March, 1989, Said speaks out about his music criticism, the role of the public intellectual, the significance of performance of drama and music, and the influence of "interculturalism" on the construction of artistic canons.]


[Bonnie Marranca:] Since you write on music performance, tell us how you feel about this activity in your life, and how it is perceived by others in the literary world.

[Edward Said:] I think the isolation of...

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Frank Kermode (review date 7 November 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Off the Edge," in London Review of Books, Vol. 13, No. 21, November 7, 1991, pp. 3-4.

[In the following review, Kermode discusses the musical and political themes of Musical Elaborations.]

The Wellek Library Lectures at the University of California, Irvine, are meant to be about Critical Theory, and up to now they have, for good or ill, been faithful (in their fashion) to that intention: but it was an enlivening idea to ask Edward Said to talk about music as well, or instead. Said is a good enough pianist to understand what the professionals are up to. He knows a great deal more about music than most amateurs, and argues persuasively that it should not be left...

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Malcolm Bowie (review date 29 November 1991)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "A Whole New Approach," in Times Literary Supplement, November 29, 1991, p. 8.

[In the review below, Bowie praises Said's diverse insights and ideas about music in Musical Elaborations, concluding that the book enriches yet further problematizes music criticism.]

Let it not be said that writers on music cannot write, for some of them certainly can. Here is Gerald Abraham, for example, discussing Chopin as melodist in A Hundred Years of Music:

He had an instinct amounting to genius for inventing melodies that would be actually ineffective if sung or played on an instrument capable of sustaining tone but which,...

(The entire section is 1491 words.)

J. B. Kelly (review date 26 April 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Imperial Masquerade," in National Review, Vol. XLV, No. 8, April 26, 1993, pp. 48-50.

[In the review below, Kelly blasts Said's representations of the British empire in Culture and Imperialism.]

In the beginning was the word. Impérialisme was coined 150 years ago, during the period of the July Monarchy in France, as a label for the attempts being made within the country to reclaim Napoleonic ideas and to reimpose the former imperial system. Passing into English as "imperialism," it was employed by British political writers in the 1850s and 1860s to describe the principles, imperial rather than republican, upon which Louis Napoléon sought to organize...

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Robert Hughes (essay date 21 June 1993)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Envoy to Two Cultures," in Time, Vol. 141, No. 25, June 21, 1993, pp. 60-2.

[In the following essay, Hughes summarizes the controversies and achievements of Said's life.]

Huge as American academe is, it has few public intellectuals—men or women whose views carry weight with general readers off-campus. Near the top of any list of such people is a tall, elegantly tailored, 57-year-old American of Palestinian descent who for the past 30 years has taught English and comparative literature at Columbia University in New York City: Edward Said.

Said (pronounced Sigh-eed) owes his fame partly to his cultural criticism, notably his 1978 book...

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Michael Wood (review date 3 March 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Lost Paradises," in New York Review of Books, Vol. 41, March 3, 1994, pp. 44-7.

[In the following review, Wood appraises the strengths and weaknesses of Culture and Imperialism, linking its ideas to Said's earlier writings.]

What redeems certain empires, or perhaps only the British, according to Conrad's Marlow, what saves them from mere rapacity, from being "just robbery with violence, aggravated murder on a great scale," is "the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea—something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to." At this point in Heart of...

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David K. Shipler (review date 26 June 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "From a Wellspring of Bitterness," in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. 99, June 26, 1994, pp. 9-10.

[In the following review, Shipler expresses mixed emotions for the themes of The Politics of Dispossession.]

Quite some time ago, in what I believe was my only encounter with Edward W. Said, we compared notes on where we lived in Jerusalem—he as a Palestinian boy until 1947, I as a correspondent for The New York Times more than 30 years later. It turned out that both our homes were in the lovely, quiet neighborhood of Talbiya, an elegant quarter where well-to-do Arab families earlier in this century built houses with thick stone walls, now covered...

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Ian Gilmour (review date 10 July 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "The Broken Promised Land," in The Observer, No. 10578, July 10, 1994, p. 16.

[Below, Gilmour sympathizes with Said's attitude about the Palestinian issues discussed in The Politics of Dispossession.]

The most remarkable feature of the Arab-Israeli conflict has been not the great military and political success of the state of Israel or the hardship and misery imposed on the Palestinian people, but the West's heaping of praise and reward on the oppressors, and blame and penalty on the victims—a stark contrast to South Africa. Europe has for some time been more even-handed; not so the United States.

The struggle for Palestine is often thought...

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Tom Narin (review date 8 September 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "What Nations Are for," in London Review of Books, Vol. 16, No. 17, September 8, 1994, pp. 7-8.

[In the following review, Narin relates the dual themes of dispossession and nationalism of The Politics of Dispossession and Representations of the Intellectual to Said's politics and personal philosophy.]

The politics of dispossession is nationalism—an overgeneralisation which at once calls for precise qualification. It is quite true that not all nationalists are dispossessed: possessors have their own (often strident) variations on the theme. It is also true that nationality politics did not originate among the crushed and uprooted: indeed its...

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George M. Wilson (review date October 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "Edward Said on Contrapuntal Reading," in Philosophy and Literature, Vol. 18, No. 2, October, 1994, pp. 265-73.

[In the following review, Wilson examines Said's notion of "contrapuntal reading" exemplified by Said's close reading of Jane Austen's novel Mansfield Park in Culture and Imperialism.]

Edward Said's rich and powerful new book, Culture and Imperialism, offers, as one strand of its multifaceted discussion, methodological reflections on the reading and interpretation of works of narrative fiction. More specifically, Said delineates and defends what he calls a "contrapuntal" reading (or analysis) of the texts in question. I am sympathetic to...

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Fawzia Afzal-Khan (review date Winter 1994)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: A review of Culture and Imperialism, in World Literature Today, Vol. 68, No. 1, Winter, 1994, pp. 229-30.

[Below, Afzal-Khan favorably reviews Culture and Imperialism, noting the lucidity of Said's prose style.]

Edward Said's latest book, Culture and Imperialism, is, as the title more or less announces, a study of the ways in which the culture of imperialism preceded and undergirded the colonial enterprises of the big European powers of yesteryear, England and France, and, in today's world, how the same process continues with America playing the role of imperial giant. In many ways, the book is a continuation of the kind of "worldly"...

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Barbara Smith (review date 28 January 1996)

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: "After Oslo," in The New York Times Book Review, Vol. 101, January 28, 1996, p. 19.

[In the review below, Smith generally praises the themes and tone of Peace and Its Discontents but notes that "the articles are dated."]

An intellectual, says Edward W. Said, a professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, must be a rebel against prevailing ideas. In Peace and Its Discontents he follows his own precept well: few can match the pungency with which he challenges conventional wisdom on the Middle East peace process—the belief that it is an ineluctably good thing, threatened by self-evidently bad extremists.


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