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EDWARD SAID ASSESSED

"Indicting a whole society as “slave-owning” does not make for a good reading of Mansfield Park."


In the new TLS, John Sutherland tries to make a case for his late friend, Edward Said, America-basher extraordinaire. Yet his essay is surprisingly tepid. A small victory in the culture wars? Here's Sutherland's summing-up:

For all his far-reaching influence, Said is not, where detail is concerned, an accurate commentator. There are websites devoted to his howlers (principally in Orientalism). And yet one cannot help feeling that, errors notwithstanding, Said is, more often than not, substantially right; or at least on the right track; or at the very least making points that one really ought to consider.

Er, yes. That doesn't exactly sound like a clarion-call to posterity. Perhaps Said's baleful influence is going into decline at last. Richard Brookhiser, pondering barriers to reform in Lebanon and elsewhere, certainly hopes so:

Said was on to something. But—irony of ironies—the effect of his teaching has been to enthrone a mirror image of Orientalism, whereby no one may criticize despotism, theocracy, burqas, honor killings or terror so long as they are perpetrated by Muslims. So the modern anti-liberationist fingers his 11th edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica and tells us that Johnny Wog is immersed in immemorial hatreds that will prevent him from taking part in such upsetting activities as voting.

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