Edward Said’s Literary Criticism and Cultural Theory: Deconstructive Readings of Canonical Literature

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This book analyzes how Edward Said’s critical and cultural theory, together with his practical criticism, dismantles the Myth of the Authenticity of canonical, Orientalist and imperialist discourse. Said’s interdisciplinary informs the multiple approaches of this present study. Therefore, the first chapter uses the theoretical and critical, while the second tends to use the textual, biographical and hermeneutical. The third chapter focuses on the historical, as related to phenomenological hermeneutics. Indeed the three chapters, like Said’s work, attempt to employ postcolonial notions and poststructuralist techniques, necessary for “deconstructing” the myth of authenticity of Western discourse and for offering a counter-narrative. The fourth and fifth chapters of this book lend themselves to cultural studies, exactly as Said did in the books discussed in these chapters.

To dismantle the Myth of Authenticity, Edward Said consecutively tackles five interrelated epistemological fields related to imperialism: literary theory and criticism, cultural studies, the media, and ideology and politics. The first two interrelated aspects, researched in the first and second chapters of this book, underline works like The Letters and Shorter Fiction of Joseph Conrad (1964) Beginnings (1975), The World, the Text and the Critic (1983), Culture and Imperialism (1993) and Representations of the Intellectual (1994). Cultural Studies is crystallized in his seminal work Orientalism: Western Conceptions of the Orient (1978), a work accredited by various critics to have inaugurated the whole field of postcolonial studies. His achievement is highlighted in the third chapter of this book. Said extends his search afterwards from critical theory and literary texts and travelogues to the media, as in his Covering Islam (1981), discussed in Chapter Four of this study. This naturally leads Said to focusing on the ideological and political aspects in, for instance, The Question of Palestine (1979), The Politics of Dispossession (1994), The End of the Peace Process (2000) and Culture and Resistance (2003). This aspect is surveyed in Chapter Five, which also links ideology and politics to hybridity and harmony as the only alternative, as is clear in his Parallels and Paradoxes (2002) and Freud and the Non-European (2003).


“Eman El-Meligi, both in terms of background and academic training counts as one of the most promising young scholars who can move Edward Said’s scholarship forward today… Meligi’s work serves the true academic purpose of attempting to explore post-colonial theory and third world literature in a manner whereby she can reach the heart of both creative fiction and academe alike, truthful and objective scholarship.”
-Nadya Chishty-Mujahid,
Ph.D. English Literature
The Institute of Business Administration, Karachi

Table of Contents

Foreword by Professor Nadya Chishty-Mujahid
Chapter One: Edward Said’s Critical Theory

Contrapuntalism and Authenticity
Beginnings: Authority and Molestation, Intention and Method
Secular Criticism
Exiled Intellectuals’ Liminal Zone and Voyage-In Narrative
Chapter Two: Edward Said’s Practical Literary Criticism
Edward Said’s Critical Approach ‘Ontological Homelessness’: Exile and Voyage-In Narrative
Synchronic and Diachronic: Conceptual and Temporal
Authority, Molestation: Phenomenological Hermeneutics
Paradigmatic and Syntagmatic: Text and World
Said’s Technique
Narrator or Author’s Alter-Ego?
The Myth of Authenticity: Projection of Darkness
Beginning and Origin
Geertz’s Thick Description
Necessary Fiction
Double Vision and the Imperial Dialetic
Colonial Discourse: Pathologized Difference and Absence
The Ideological Geography of the Novel
Chapter Three: Orientalism: Inspiration and Reconsideration
Orient or Occident’s Alter-Ego and Surrogate Self?
Said’s Aim, Approach and Technique
Sacy and Renan; Philology and Lexicography
Comparative Religions and Islamophobia
Egyptology: Racial Anthropology or Mere Travelogues?
Balfour and Autonomy: The British and the Legacy of the French
Contextualizing Said: Inspiration and Reconsideration
Foucault and Gramsci: Resistance to Hegemony
Said, Postcolonial Mimicry and Authenticity
Critique of Said
Chapter Four: Said’s Impact on a New Trend of Media Criticism
Presenter or Interpreter? Authenticity and Hermeneutics
Spacing: Media Theories and Cultural Studies
Myth of Global Chaos
Conspiracy Theory
Weapons of Mass Deception
“Defamation; Zionist Style”: Battle for Authenticity
Epic Encounters
The Media and the Military
Two Media Models: A Comparative Study
Clash of Ignorance
Chapter Five: Edward Said’s Palestinian Counternarrative
Decoding Silence: Rewriting Palestinian History
The Archaeology of Knowledge
Demography, Disinformation, and Geopolitical Conjecture
Zionism as “Beginning Intention”
Adjacency of Self-Quest and National identity
Parallels and Paradoxes: Normalization or Hybridity
Clash of Definitions: Blaming the Victims
Works Cited

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