English 456: C20 Criticism and Theory

Questions on Edward Said's Introduction to Orientalism (1978) and "The World, the Text, and the Critic" (1983)

Al Drake | Cyber Cafe | Thurs. 6-7 | 714-434-1612

Introduction to Orientalism (1978)

1. Why, according to Said, can't Orientalism simpl be dismissed as the product of Western imperialism? What specific ideas and phenomena does Said, on page 1993, include in the concept of Orientalism?

2. What is Said's view on whether "pure knowledge" can be kept separate from "political knowledge" (1997)? Why is it nonetheless necessary to "eliminate from the start any notion that 'big' facts like imperial domination can be applied mechanically and deterministically to such complex matters as culture and ideas" (1999)?

3. How does Said, around page 2002, justify his method of delimiting and dealing with Orientalism as a subject for study?

4. From page 2010 onwards, how does Said account for "the personal dimension"--that is, for his own situation as a Palestinian writing about Orientalism?

5. How, according to Said on page 2011, do contemporary electronic media reinforce Orientalism's hold on Western relations with the Middle East? Why is it nearly impossible to comment on those relations without controversy?

6. According to Said on page 2012, what is the goal of his book Orientalism? How does his Introduction function as a defense of theorizing about Orientalism?

7. To what extent is Said a Foucauldian? What other theorists does he bring into his analysis, and how does he employ their ideas either to qualify or supplement his own and Foucault's framework? What reason does Said offer on page 1996 (bottom) for not simply sticking with one theoretical framework rather than integrating the work of several theorists?

Edition: The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: Norton, 2001. ISBN: 0393974294.

"The World, the Text, and the Critic" (1983) [for a previous class]

1. Said wants to move away from theories that he believes have construed the literary text as an object apart from the world, from everyday reality. How, according to Said, does Paul Ricoeur's analysis of the opposition between speech and texts reproduce the problem that Said wants to avoid?

2. Said considers texts "worldly"--i.e. not as self-contained objects but as relating to a broader social and political reality. How is this view of his furthered by his analysis on page 1213-15 of the argument between the medieval Koran scholars known respectively as Zahirites (especially Ibn Hazm) and Batinists?

3. From 1215-17, Said discusses the work of Hopkins, Wilde, and Conrad. What does he argue is special about their texts, and why does this special quality matter to the overall argument he is pursuing about the relation between the world, the text, and the critic?

4. From 1218-20, Said further refines his statements about the "will to worldliness." What is his ultimate point about the relationship between text and speech, and between text and the world?

5. From 1221-22, Said discusses the role of the critic and criticism. What value does he ascribe to them? Why is it vital that critics be more than caretakers for the meaning of past works?

*The second reading selection is from Adams, Hazard. Critical Theory Since Plato. Rev. ed. New York: Harcourt, 1992. 1211-22.