cover image Culture and Imperialism

Culture and Imperialism

Edward W. Said. Alfred A. Knopf, $25 (380pp) ISBN 978-0-394-58738-7

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.)