The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Edward Said, Culture and Imperialism


When was this book published? What are some of the ways this book enforces the message of Achebe's "An Image of Africa"? Are there differences in emphasis and if so, how do you account for these?

How does Said describe the scope of this book as differing from his earlier Orientalism? (xii) What has characterized resistance to European domination?

What does Said believe are some features which link narrative and imperialism? (xiii) Nationalism and imperialism? What kinds of cultural nationalism does he see as linked with imperialism? (xiii)

Which aspects of past literature does Said believe have been improperly ignored? (xiv) In what context does he adduce Dickens' Great Expectations, and what significant messages about Britain's colonies does he believe it conveys? (xiv-xvi)

What does Said find of interest in the portrayal of Charles Gould and his financial backer Holroyd in Conrad's Nostromo?

What does he see as some characteristics of imperial rhetoric? (xvii)

On what grounds does he claim--like Achebe--that "Conrad's novel embodies the same paternalistic arrogance of imperialism that it mocks in characters like Gould and Holroyd"? (xviii) What are inherent paradoxes of Conrad's (partial) anti-imperialism?

What have been some changes in the cultural landscape since Conrad's day? What are outdated forms of response to Conrad and other imperialist literature, and what should take their place? (xx)

In what ways do narratives written by British and French observers of the 1860s reveal the presence of imperial attitudes? (xxi)

What does Said view as the accomplishment of imperialism? (xxi)

Which recent empires does he discuss, and which does his selection omit? (xxii-xxiii) What does he see as a common feature of the mindset in these countries? (xxiii)

Which aspects of the rhetoric of contemporary U. S. policy does Said find familiar? (xxiii)

What recent forms of criticism does Said find encouraging? (xxiv) What concept of identity does he believe needs to be revised, and toward what alternative? (xxv)

What role does he believe the university should provide in these discussions? (xxvi) Why may he have felt impelled to include this explanation?

Which other theorists would have agreed with his desire to modify notions of identity? Would they have agreed about goals and means?

What attitude does Said express toward his own cultural duality? (xxvii) How does he describe New York City, and what advantages has it offered him?

In the introduction's closing statement, what does he leave for the reader to decide? (xxvii)

Chapter 1, “Empire, Geography and Culture”

What motivates interest in the imperial/colonial past? (unsure if it is really past, 1. 7)

How does Said define imperialism” (practice, theory and attitudes of a dominating metropolitan center, 7. 9)

How much of earth’s surface did colonial powers lay claim to by 1914? (85%, 8) What effect did this have?

What in Said’s view will an understanding of empire add to the experience of reading Victorian and later British (and American) texts? (13-14)

What does he believe is the flaw of much literary criticism? (treats literature as autonomous, or sees English and U. S. literature as concerned only with England and the United States)

“Images of the Past, Pure and Impure”
What examples does Said give of the whitewashing of history? (cannibalism of Crusaders, 15-16)

How does he believe revolutionary anti-colonial constructions of the past have been used? (16, romanticized, used to cover up contemporary evils) In this does he agree with Fanon?

What are some problems faced by third world intellectuals? (18)

What has caused a shared rhetoric of blame, and what are its consequences?  (18)

What is Said’s stated aim in his discussion? (18)

“Discrepant Experiences”

What examples does he give of juxtaposed views of the same event? (33-34, Napoleonic invasion, Gulf War)

Even with changed and post-colonial attitudes, what does he think is the continued danger of older self-identifications and stereotypes? (may break out in war atavistically, 37)

How does he interpret the unhappiness of Arab Christians who feel deserted by their Western mother churches? (40)

How does Said interpret the hostile response to a television documentary of African history by an African historian? (38)

“Connecting Empire to Secular Interpretation”:

What changes does he see in the definition and scope of “comparative literature” (his field), and which forms of narrowness do these encourage? (loss of sense of whole, 44)

What relationship does he believe earlier scholarship bore to the emergence of nationalism? (44, sought a transnational culture, 45)

What insights does Said attribute to Gramsci? (concern with “north-south” relationships, need for alliance of southern agricultural and northern industrial workers)

Is Said correct in his repeated claim (e. g. 53) that nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century peoples in the U. K. and the U. S. accepted imperialism without resistance? (Quakers, factions of the British liberal party, many working-class organizations, and pre WWI socialists fought a continuing battle against foreign wars, and in most cases, foreign intervention; in some cases they supported revolutionary movements abroad)

Which group of people does he believe/hope have sometimes resisted both imperialist and nationalist pressures? (third-world artists and intellectuals, 54) What dangers do they face? (54)

What relationship do you find between Said’s views and those of Homi Bhabha? Are there differences in emphasis?

Why does Said believe that Americans have a special need to concern themselves with their relationships with other peoples and nations? (55)

What problems does he see as inherent in the field of anthropology/ethnography? (56)

What does Said find interesting as well as limited about the spatial/cultural world of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park?

What changes to the curriculum would he advocate? (emphasis on writers such as Conrad or Kipling, as well as their non-Western counterparts, 60) Have some of these changes occurred?

In order to understand post-colonial history, for which should we seek? Might his prescriptions be subject to a critique of the “grand narrative”? (overlapping territories, intertwined histories, 61)

How would you characterize Said's style and mode of presentation?


  Copyright © 2010 Florence S Boos, The University of Iowa. All rights reserved.
  Page updated: September 3, 2010 22:56