Orientalism

“The ensemble of relationships between works, audiences, and some particular aspects of the Orient therefore constitutes an analyzable formation – for example, that of philological studies, of anthologies of extracts from Oriental literature, of travel books, of Oriental fantasies – whose presence in time, in discourse, in institutions (schools, libraries, foreign services) give it strength and authority” (Said, 1811).

Specifically in terms of authority and the power it ensures, Said comments on how different types of texts are interrelated with the different types of institutions. Throughout his introduction, Said analyzes the idea of the West vs East, Occident vs Orient, or the Civilized vs Uncivilized, and how they are framed through different texts using the lens of European superiority. If there is one thing I learned from Edward Said, it is how to be critical of texts – especially those coming from the dominant writers. Said suggests how different types of text frame the ideas of the world in sometimes an inacurrate and distorted way. This is a huge idea that effect the way texts are used and respected today, especially those used in school institutions that can dramatically influence the readers. Said shows perfectly how different types of text can influence the world in a negative way. In his idea of Orientalism, the West has always seen the East to be its inferior, an idea that has preserved all throughout history and up until today, and is primarily maintained through texts. It is common knowledge that all humans have biases derived from their knowledge, and Said shows how these biases are framed by the West in order to maintain their superiority and justify their colonization. As literary readers, it is important to be literary critics as well because texts are what shape our thinking and ideas of the world.