Edward Said Questions for English 256 Intro to Theory, Chapman University Fall 2012



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Assigned: "Introduction to Orientalism" (Leitch 1866-88).

"Introduction" to Orientalism

1. From 1866-69, how does Said initially define "Orientalism": which meanings of this term does he delineate, and how does he situate Orientalism in relation to the French and British colonial and cultural enterprise (1868-69)? In what sense is Orientalism more complex than straightforward, brutal domination exercised by imperial powers?

2. From 1869-72, how does Said reinforce the point that while Orientalism isn't simply material, neither is it simply an abstract set of ideas, a matter of supposedly pure ideology? How does he enlist the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci's concept of hegemony in making this point? Aside from Gramsci, what does Said suggest (1872 "My two fears ….") about his own scholarly worries and goals?

3. From 1872-1878 top (ending before 2. "The Methodological Question."), Said lays out what he calls "three aspects of my contemporary reality" (1872); the first of these has to do with "The distinction between pure and political knowledge." How does he go on to analyze this distinction?

4. An additional possibility for the segment from 1872-1878 top (ending before 2. "The Methodological Question."): if you've read the selections from Foucault's Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison (1490-1502) or The History of Sexuality (1502-21), in what sense do Said's statements in this segment evoke Foucauldian ideas about the inextricable relationship between power and knowledge?

5. From 1878-86 top -10 (ending before 3. "The Personal Dimension."), what are the main points Said makes about the second of the three aspects he said earlier that he wants to discuss? Namely, "the methodological question" (1878). Consider his comments about "strategic location" and "strategic formation" (1881 last paragraph) and about the importance of avoiding a "history of ideas" approach when studying Orientalism (1884). On the whole, how does Said make his case in these pages that texts are "worldly and circumstantial" rather than purely literary or linguistic?

6. From 1886-88, how does Said discuss the third aspect he had mentioned on 1886 -- namely, "the personal dimension" of his project? How, that is, does he account for his own situation as a Palestinian writing about Orientalism? How, in addition, does he address the effects of communication in our "electronic, postmodern world" (1886) with regard to the representation of "the Orient," and what does he suggest at the end is the general goal of his book Orientalism?

Edition: Leitch, Vincent B., ed. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: Norton, 2010. ISBN 978-0-393-93292-8.