Culture and Imperialism, by Edward W. Said
Edward said, who teaches literature at Columbia University, has specialized in writers about colonialism. His first book was Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography; his best-known work, Orientalism, is a panoramic denunciation of the ways Europe has seen the East. Said has also been more than a literary critic; as “America’s foremost spokesman for the Palestinians” (in the words of the New York Observer), he served from 1977 to 1991 as a member of the Palestine National Council, an arm of the PLO, and he has written indefatigably celebrating the Palestinian agenda and attacking Israel.
In Culture and Imperialism, Said undertakes to examine strains of “imperialism” as found in such 19th- and 20th-century English and French writers as Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Joseph Conrad, Albert Camus, and E.M. Forster. After locating the virus, he offers his remedial medicine: something he calls “contrapuntal reading,” which comes down to confronting these European artists with political texts from the third world. Then, in a final, disjointed (in every sense) chapter, Said indulges in a prolonged diatribe against United States foreign policy, as manifested especially in the Gulf war.
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