Literature Study GuidesOrientalismChapter 1 Part 4 Summary

Orientalism | Study Guide

Edward W. Said

Download a PDF to print or study offline.

Study Guide
Cite This Study Guide

How to Cite This Study Guide

quotation mark graphic


Course Hero. "Orientalism Study Guide." Course Hero. 7 May 2018. Web. 18 Jan. 2019. <>.

In text

(Course Hero)



Course Hero. (2018, May 7). Orientalism Study Guide. In Course Hero. Retrieved January 18, 2019, from

In text

(Course Hero, 2018)



Course Hero. "Orientalism Study Guide." May 7, 2018. Accessed January 18, 2019.


Course Hero, "Orientalism Study Guide," May 7, 2018, accessed January 18, 2019,

Orientalism | Chapter 1, Part 4 : The Scope of Orientalism (Crisis) | Summary



Said begins by describing what constitutes a "textual attitude." It is a preference for textual information in contrast to oral or experiential information. He goes on to explain why one might prefer textual information to other forms. He also claims texts provide a sense of knowledge about something unknown, and this sense of knowledge reinforces the idea that textual information is accurate. This occurs, in part, because textual knowledge can create what Michel Foucault calls a "discourse," or the "very reality they appear to describe." This concept can be seen in Napoleon's and de Lesseps's treatment of the Orient in which they interacted with the Orient as a "fierce lion" that needed to be dealt with, because the texts they read described the Orient as such. Thus, "Orientalism overrode the Orient."

Said emphasizes that while the "official intellectual genealogy of Orientalism" would fail to include travel literature, these works were fundamentally important to the understanding of how Orientalism was constructed. The dichotomy between East and West has served to lump the entire Orient into one category that fails to acknowledge the legitimate distinctions between groups. Equally, the same characterizations of the Orient that Orientalists originally developed are still in play because of a commitment to this "textual attitude." Said provides a portion of a lecture given by H.A.R. Gibb in 1945 at the University of Chicago, and another lecture given in 1963 at Harvard University, in which he uses the same discriminatory language used to characterize the Orient. Said's aim is to describe the pervasiveness of these text-based paradigms over time.


Orientalism has persisted in a form relatively unchanged since its initial conception. Said is able to break down the components of Orientalism, using techniques drawn from his background in literary comparison because the basis of Orientalism is not only inherently textual in nature but also sustained through text. Despite physical encounters with the Orient, Orientalists prefer to rely on their textual knowledge at the expense of adapting to actual conditions. Said draws on Foucault, Napoleon, and de Lesseps to illustrate how textual knowledge creates the very reality described. In this case, the Orient was something wild that needed to be controlled. However, this was the case only because it was defined as such within the texts.

Said also draws on contemporary scholars to support his ideas. For instance, he describes how Anwar Abdel Malek used the history of Orientalism to describe how the Orient became an "object" of study. At the same time, it is clear the issue is a contemporary one with opposing sides, as evidenced by Said's reference to H.A.R. Gibb.

Cite This Study Guide

information icon Have study documents to share about Orientalism? Upload them to earn free Course Hero access!