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Culture and Imperialism Paperback – May 31, 1994
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 1994 Reed Business Information, Inc.
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Top Customer Reviews
So, what is this book about? Well, contrary to what some of the "reviews" below assume, it's not about contemporary Middle East politics, or media coverage thereof, or anything even remotely like that. It's about literature-- European literature to be specific.
Essentially, Said proposes to look at what he calls "Imperialism" in European literature. (Although the title is "Culture and Imperialism" and while he does discuss one opera, he's not really concerned with culture or art, more broadly. He's really talking about literature here-- and especially novels. In truth, "Literature and Imperialism" would be a more accurate title.
So, what is imperialism, as Said uses it here? It is, he explains, an ideology-- a set of assumptions-- that justifies, supports, and legitimates the conquest, control, and domination of lands that are inhabited by other people, who speak different languages and have other traditions. Imperialism, as an ideology, is thus distinct from "Colonialism", which is the actual, real, activity of conquering, controling, and domination other lands and people. Imperialism is, Said might say, the intellectual/cultural/ideological base that makes an otherwise morally dubious project of colonialism (conquering and ruling over others) seem acceptable, even justifiable.
Essentially, Said traces the role that imperialism (as defineed above) plays in a host of European literary works, focussing on the past two centuries. After his theoretical/methodological introduction, each chapter is devoted to the discussion of a single literary work (or in some cases, multiple works by the same author), illuminating its imperialist qualities.Read more ›
For the readers intrigued by the idea of "Orientalism" but who seek a more structured, accessible and explicitly political version of the same, "Culture and Imperialism" is the ideal book. It is perhaps for these reasons better than "Orientalism" at achieving its purpose, since Said's writing style is also generally better and more polemically strong in this book, and the literary studies are less obscure and more clearly linked to the topic. Though much of it still consists of 'lit crit', there is in this book a direct analysis of the imperialist contents and their historical background of such famous works as "Mansfield Park", Joseph Conrad, the "Aida" of Verdi and the oeuvre of Camus. Said brings all his erudition and subtlety of judgement to bear on these and similar products of culture, and the result is an engrossing, stimulating and effective polemic, while generally lacking in an actual outright polemical tone.
Also of interest is that a significant part of the book is concerned with the counter-imperialist products of culture, from the poetry of Yeats to the evocative works of Fanon and Achebe.Read more ›
Said begins his huge and difficult task by discussing, in general terms, the way that in the West (the dominant imperializers since the sixteenth century) cultural representations of the non-European world are crude, reductionist and often racist. Said believes this tendency is not accidental but systematic and part of an imperial impulse that needs to dominate. Voices of the non-European world in Western culture are not expected to be heard, and are deliberately, if not always consciously, suppressed. In Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility, for example, the world of the Caribbean plantation is only peripherally referred to, though its existence and economic exploitation are essential to the well-being of the novel's main characters. When referred to, the plantation is subordinate and dominated--no non-European voices are heard. This illustrates one of Said's key arguments: "the experience of the stronger party overlaps and, strangely, depends on the weaker.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Few works of literary criticism have made as strong an impact on me as has Edward Said's Culture and Imperialism. Read morePublished 10 months ago by Mikhail B
Many would say they find reading this book less demanding than his Orientalism. Still I find Orientalism a far more enjoyable book, though this one is a great book as well.Published 12 months ago by LSE chap
A landmark work. Had to have a paperback copy for our home library.Published 13 months ago by A. Blanch
The book is highly informative and assertive. In the level of language, Said use of language and grammar fascinates me; what make it interesting is the sort of refrain that follow,... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Dhiffaf Al-Shwillay
I really like Edward Said's work, especially 'Orientalism', and he has a great grasp of colonization and imperialism, and how they affect the culture of both, and the power... Read morePublished 21 months ago by Liza Kimball
This book is about how culture, power and imperialism have been stitched together to turn mere nations into Empires. Read morePublished 22 months ago by Herbert L Calhoun