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Edward Said Biography

(1935–2003), Beginnings, Orientalism, The Question of Palestine, The Politics of Dispossession, After the Last Sky

east cultural political critical

Palestinian critic, born in Jerusalem, educated at Princeton and Harvard. In 1970 he became Professor of Comparative Literature at Columbia University, New York. Said wrote widely and forcefully on literature, politics, and music. His first book was on Joseph Conrad and he continued to work on the major Anglo-British Modernists, but much of his reputation rests on his engagement with European philosophy and theory—on his revision of the work of Jacques Derrida (1930) and Michel Foucault (192684), for example, in the direction of a resistance to European cultural domination. Beginnings (1975) asks a series of difficult questions about origins and lineages, exploring the relevance of Freud, Marx, and Nietzsche to contemporary critical and theoretical questions. Orientalism (1978), Said's major work, examines in detail the discourse the West has constructed about and around the East, the role of this discourse in Western political and literary culture, and its implications for the hidden or ignored inhabitants of this mythified domain. The work is both historical—an account of how the East has in fact been seen by travellers and others, from Dante to the State Department—and polemical, charging contemporary politicians and scholars with using the myth of the East to blind themselves to much they would rather not know. Orientalism has had a great influence on cultural studies, where the East itself may not be in question but the difficulties and dangers of constructing ‘otherness’ are. Said also wrote passionately about the current fortunes of his native land in The Question of Palestine (1979) and The Politics of Dispossession (1994), and a moving personal memoir, with photographs by Jean Mohr, entitled After the Last Sky (1986). Later critical works include The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983) and Culture and Imperialism (1993). Musical Elaborations (1992) studies classical music, particularly opera and the piano repertoire, in the cultural and political context of its performance and dissemination. Representations of the Intellectual (1994) represents the texts of his Reith Lectures of 1993.

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