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Postcolonial Criticism and Edward Said's "Culture and Imperialism"
kimberlee kileon 24 March 2011
Transcript of Postcolonial Criticism and Edward Said's "Culture and Imperialism"
Died- Sept 25, 2003 Palestinian-American literary theorist Grew up in Palestine and was raised a Christian
Became a professor of English and Comparative Lit at Columbia
Famous for "Orientalism" (1978)
Wrote a prize-winning memoir "Out of Place" (1999)
Comprised much of this thesis about colonialism
Studied Conrad's fiction
His work influenced many people in culture, politics, and literary theory
He was talented in many areas A Brief Review of Postcolonial Criticism
It draws attention to issues of cultural difference in literary texts
It examines the representation of other cultures in literature and investigates cultural differences and diversity in texts
Proves that literature is often silent about issues dealing with colonialization and imperialism
It praises "cultural polyvalency"
Examines "otherness" "Culture and Imperialism" was published in 1993 and is a sequel to "Orientalism". Works Cited
Jane Austen, "Mansfield Park." Ed. Tony Tanner. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1966.
Peter Barry, "Beginning Theory: An Introduction to Literary and Cultural Theory." 3rd Ed. NY: Manchester UP, 2009.
Edward W. Said, "Culture and Imperialism." New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1993. Chapter 3, Section 3
"Yeats and Decolonization" Irish poet and dramatist
Awarded Nobel Prize in literature “...we must fully comprehend the pastness of the past...there is no just way in which the past can be quarantined from the present. Past and present inform each other, each implies the other and...each co-exists with the other.” (Said, 4) In Culture and Imperialism, Said asserts that British cultural forms such as the novel contributed to the establishment of an “us” and “them” mentality. That is, such forms promoted “positive ideas of home, of a nation and its language, of proper order, good behavior, and moral values.” (Said, 81) Because of this well-established sense of order, there was little or no domestic resistance to British hegemony. Said gives us a specific example using Austen's Mansfield Park.
Mansfield Park is an estate supported by an overseas plantation in Antigua.
In the novel, Sir Thomas returns to put his house in order, just as he has established order by Antigua through colonization. Chapter 2, Section 2
"Jane Austen and Empire" Chapter 1, Sections 1 and 2
"Empire, Geography, and Culture"
"Images of the Past, Pure, and Impure" The focus of Edward Said's book Culture and Imperialism is Western imperialism, primarily during the nineteenth century, and the "resistance it provoked" mainly from the colonized people groups (p 6) . This book is relevant to post-colonialist criticism in the literary world because it examines the impact - whether positive or negative - that colonialism had on politics, art, religion, and other aspects of culture in both the colonized regions and the nations who were expanding their "empires." It also explores the various attitudes and reactions of natives who fell under imperial rule during the time. Although one could say that the explosive colonialism of the nineteenth century has generally ended, the implications and lingering effects of imperialism are still very evident today. Said remarks that "there is no just way in which the past can be quarantined from the present" (p 4). Colonialism in the 19th Century Social Implications Said highlights the notable influence that colonial expansion had on nineteenth century society. He writes,
"For citizens of the nineteenth-century Britain and France, empire was a major topic of unembarrassed cultural attention. British India and French North Africa alone played inestimable roles in the imagination, economy, political life, and social fabric of British and French society ... There were scholars, administrators, travellers, traders, parliamentarians, merchants, novelists, theorists, speculators, adventurers, visionaries, poets, and every variety of outcast and misfit in the outlying possessions of these two imperial powers, each of whom contributed to the formation of a colonial actuality exisiting at the heart of metropolitan life" (p 9) Sustaining Imperialism Furthermore, Said suggests that imperialism relies heavily upon one's mindset and response to this establishment. He explains that
"Neither imperialism nor colonialism is a simple act of accumulation and acquisition. Both are support and perhaps even impelled by impressive ideological formations that include notions that certain territories and people require and beseech domination, as well as forms of knowledge affiliated with domination: the vocabulary of classic nineteenth-century imperial culture is plentiful with words and concepts like "inferior" or "subject races," "subordinate peoples," "dependency," "expansion," and "authority" " (p 9). Edward Said even quotes a "distinguished conservative historian of empire D.K. Fieldhouse" who remarks that "The basis of imperial authority was the mental attitude of the colonist. His acceptance of subordination--whether through a positive sense of common interest with the parent state, or through inability to conceive of any alternative--made empire durable" (p 11). Both of these quotes reflect that idea that imperialism was able to sustain itself because the parent state felt it had the right to subject "inferior races" to its rule while natives felt helpless and disempowered under foreign rule. Making Connections Between
Fiction and its Historical World The author specifically shows the necessity for understanding the historical context of a text when he writes,
"The tendency for fields and specializations to subdivide and proliferate, I have for a long while argued, is contrary to an understanding of the whole, when the character, interpretation, and direction or tendency of cultural experience are at issue. To lose sight of or ignore the national and international context of, say, Dickens's representations of Victorian businessmen, and to focus only on the internal coherence of their roles in his novels is to miss an essential connection between his fiction and its historical world. And understanding that connection does not reduce or diminish the novels' value as works of art: on the contrary, because of their worldliness, because of their complex affiliations with their real setting, they are more interesting, and more valuable as works of art" (p 13). Said introduces Yeats as an
"indisputably great national poet who during a period of anti-imperialist resistance articulates the experiences, the restorative vision of a people suffering under the domination of an offshore power" (220). Said defines nationalism as "the mobilizing force that coalesced into resistance against an alien and occupying empire on the parts of people possessing a common history, religion, and language" (223). In his poems, Yeats describes the East as the exotic "other" which contrasts his own normal pursuits and concerns and often expresses his desire to "regain contact with an earlier, mythical, nationalistic Ireland." (Barry, 187).
Yeats' uneasy attitude towards the colonial language
Yeats' double identity as colonizer and colonized "It's long since I began
To call up to the eyes
This wise and simple man.
All day I'd look in the face
What I had hoped 'twould be
To write for my own race
And the reality" (Said, 233).
-Yeats "The Fisherman" There is an emphasis placed on colonized people's helpless and disempowered
They are often brainwashed and willing to accept the superiority of the colonial powers