Culture and imperialism /

Main Author: Said, Edward W.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: New York : Knopf : 1993.
Edition: 1st ed.
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Review by Choice Review

Said (Columbia Univ.) is internationally recognized as a scholar with exceptional insight on wide-ranging cultural phenomena. Here he brings the same skills exhibited in his widely heralded work Orientalism (CH, Apr'79) to bear on the age of imperialism. Said makes extensive use of literary masterpieces, intermingling them with a solid understanding of political developments, to present an interesting and original view of the pervasive legacy of imperalism. He sees the impact of imperialism as a "consolidated vision" of the sort Kipling had in mind when he spoke of the "white man's burden." Set against this Eurocentric view were the thoughts and writings of indigenous peoples who struggled valiantly, even as decolonization was in progress, to retain and reassert their own distinct cultural identity. Said's scope is wide; his arguments deep. Yet this book is one that no serious student of modern empire can afford to ignore. Those who seek greater understanding of today's interaction between the West and the Third World cannot overlook its message of the true oneness of the human community. Advanced undergraduate; graduate; faculty. J. A. Casada; Winthrop University

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

A scholarly analysis of the complex, interdependent relationship between the purveyors of culture and the forces of imperialism from the author of Orientalism and Covering Islam. Arguing that many artistic formats foster and sustain the cycle of nationalistic aggression, Said provides an in-depth examination of a handful of notable Western masterpieces that offered both subtle and overt support for the type of rabid expansionism that characterized the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. The works of writers as diverse as Jane Austen, Rudyard Kipling, Charles Dickens, Joseph Conrad, and Albert Camus sanctioned and promoted the notion of empire building. Conversely, a new literature of independence and self-determination emerged, rejecting standard European and American ethnocentric conceits. A significant and insightful historical and sociological treatise, recommended for larger research collections. (Reviewed Feb 15, 1993)0394587383Margaret Flanagan

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Said's ( Orientalism ) main theme in this dense, academic study is how literature has reflected and bolstered British, French and U.S. imperialisms, which use self-justifying rhetoric to condone the West's dominance and exploitation of non-Western people. Said, University Professor at Columbia University where he teaches English and comparative literature, teases what he regards as imperialist assumptions out of Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Rudyard Kipling's Kim , Verdi's Aida and Andre Gide's The Immoralist. In his view, Joseph Conrad was both an anti-imperialist and a deeply reactionary precursor of Western blindness to Third World cultures and aspirations. He tweaks Albert Camus's ``colonial sensibility,'' interprets Melville's Moby-Dick as a parable of U.S. expansionism and reads W. B. Yeats as an Irish national poet voicing resistance to British rule. He also looks at writers such as Salman Rushdie and Chinua Achebe who have asserted the right of Third World citizens to self-determination. Finally, Said castigates the media for its role in justifying U.S. intervention abroad, whether in Panama or during the Gulf war. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Review by Kirkus Book Review

Said's latest book largely reiterates his familiar argument for cultural recognition of the ``Other'' (more cogently marshalled in his Orientalism, 1978), particularly the colonized ``Other'' that has been molded in popular perception by the crucial (to Said) element of Western imperialism. Perusing Verdi's Aida, Conrad's Heart of Darkness, Kipling's Kim, even Jane Austen's Mansfield Park, Said insists that the fact that one culture has dominated another is the subtext for any 19th-century exploration of the exotic--or even, in Austen's case, for ``the ordination'' of the colonizer's rights and local freedoms. Said, though a gifted professor, is a gluey stylist (``Moreover, the various struggles for dominance among states, nationalisms, ethnic groups, regions, and cultural entities have conducted and simplified a manipulation of opinion and discourse, a production and consumption of ideological media representations, a simplification and reduction of vast complexities into easy currency, the easier to deploy and exploit them in the interest of state politics'')--and he is certainly subject to his own charges of simplification. Didn't colonized cultures have, in turn, their own colonies, imperialisms, dominations? Has there ever been a human society in which the ``Other,'' the ``impure,'' the ``raw,'' the ``strange'' hasn't been used as a lever for advantage? Is culture, for that matter, supposed to be complex and fair--or is it, rather, self-essential and reflective? Said spends no time weighing these questions, which he sends out onto the field but never puts in play. It's following the sections of highly tenuous lit-crit here that Said's lack of focus and ill-thought-out positions become most apparent. Drifting screeds and apologies--against the Gulf War, for Oliver Stone's JFK and the equally astigmatic Salman Rushdie--plus ever more academic recommendations of scholarly books Said agrees with give his own a tiresome, soapboxy sensibility, undercutting its formality and most of its seriousness.

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