Literature Study GuidesCulture And Imperialism

Culture and Imperialism | Study Guide

Edward W. Said

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Edward W. Said

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Argument, History

At a Glance

This work, a sequel to and extension of the author's landmark book Orientalism (1978), examines the multifaceted relationship between the literature produced by a culture and its social and political context. Culture and Imperialism clarifies how culture both reflected and reinforced the imperialist enterprise of the great western powers—Britain, France, and the United States—from 1700 to 1950. For such a project, Edward Said argues, no cultural expression is more valuable than the novel. It is no coincidence, he believes, that the high point of western imperialist expansion coincided with the golden age of the novel in the West. Thus, he presents detailed analysis of selected works by such European novelists as Jane Austen, Albert Camus, Joseph Conrad, E.M. Forster, and Rudyard Kipling. Said exhorts readers to interpret both political and literary history in terms of a struggle between power and opposition. As power and opposition play out in culture, one defines the other.

About the Title

Said argues in Culture and Imperialism that the process of building and maintaining overseas empires in the 18th, 19th, and 20th centuries—imperialism—was closely linked to the cultures of Britain, France, and America, especially as these cultures were manifested in the literary genre of the novel. The argument represented in this title is that literature reveals as much about how European cultures were shaped by imperialism as were those non-European cultures about which the novels were written.


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