Background Image
Table of Contents Table of Contents
Previous Page  285 / 176 Next Page
Show Menu
Previous Page 285 / 176 Next Page
Page Background


’s Discourse


Yet, despite the influence of poststructuralism on his first

major publication,

Beginnings: Intention and Method

(1975), Said’s

liaison with French theory was for the most part short-lived. Not

long after the success of


, he began to lament what he

described as a one-way “dialogue” between French and American

scholars, which he blamed on the insular “self-quarantined” world

of Parisian academics, who regarded all things French as universally



Likewise, he railed against American scholars for

“institutionalizing” theory and in the process trivializing and

rarefying many of its ideas. In the case of Foucault, “[o]ne

immediate result was that certain terms like




,” which he labored with precision to define, “now clotted

the prose” of all those who “wrote criticism” and who “seized on

the words as if they were magic wands by which to transform [their]

humdrum scholastic readings into eye-catching theoretical ‘texts’”

(Said, 1999: 146).

Of course, it would hardly be unfair to ask why Said himself

does not also deserve to be included among those accused of

trivializing Foucault’s ideas. In his original treatise on traveling

theory, Said refers to Lukács’s

History and Class Consciousness

(1923) in order to illustrate how the author’s concept of

“reification,” which originated in revolutionary struggle, became

watered down by the time that it reached institutional settings like

(Said, 1999: 146).


According to Perry Anderson, “if one looks at the social sciences, political thought

or even in some respects philosophy in France, the impression left is that for long

periods there has been a notable degree of closure, and ignorance of intellectual

developments outside the country. Examples of the resulting lag could be

multiplied: a very belated and incomplete encounter with Anglo-Saxon analytic

philosophy or neo-contractualism; with the Frankfurt School or the legacy of

Gramsci; with German stylistics or American New Criticism; British historical

sociology or Italian political science. A country that has translated scarcely

anything of Fredric Jameson or Peter Wollen, and could not even find a publisher

for Eric Hobsbawm’s

Age of Extremes

, might well be termed a rearguard in the

intellectual exchange of ideas” (2004).