Robert Irwin fights his last battle with Edward Said? American Writer comments

Robert Irwin ‘reviews’ Timothy Brennan’s book ‘Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said’

Title :Flawed secular saint

Subtitle: The errors of Edward Said

Timothy Brennan evidently knew Edward Said very well and has conducted numerous interviews with others who knew him well, and he has had access to such fascinating unpublished documents as Said’s unfinished novel. In Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said, while providing evidence of Said’s many admirable qualities, such as his courage in speaking and writing for the Palestinian cause, his promotion of Arabic novelists in translation, his enthusiasm for engaging with challenging intellectual theories and his remarkable skill as a musician, Brennan repeatedly takes note of his failings. These include his vanity, his resistance to criticism, his impatience with students and his polemical rages. Yet Said’s proneness to anger does not prevent Brennan from presenting him as a secular saint. (Saint Jerome, who was notoriously ill-tempered, might furnish a precedent.) It is interesting to note that Said had a particular detestation of two other secular saints, George Orwell and Albert Camus.

Flawed secular saint

The Critics of Said are many:

Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said’s Orientalism by Ibn Warraq

The lowest cost at Alibris $77.00 US dollars


Some Critiques of Edward Said’s Orientalism:

That provides this source, ‘Irwin, Robert. 2008. “Edward Said’s Shadowy Legacy,” Times Literary Supplement, 7 May 2008.’

(I searched the TLS data base for the May 7, 2008 article resulted in this: ‘Your search for ”Irwin, Robert. 2008. “Edward Said’s Shadowy Legacy,” ‘ returned 0 articles’ )


Edward Said: Critic decries his “shadowy legacy”

This provides a link to Mr. Irwin’s May 7, 2008 essay. The reader is taken to the current edition of the TLS.


Here is a link to a collection of essays titled ‘Debating Orientalism’, and Mr. Irwin’s essay ‘Flaubert’s Camel: Said’s Animus’

This essay is available for $29.95, US currency.


Campus Watch publishes the whole of the May 7, 2008 TLS essay. No way of checking this.

Edward Said’s Shadowy Legacy [incl. Daniel Martin Varisco, Bernard Lewis, et al.]

Tricky with argument, weak in languages, careless of facts: but, thirty years on, Said still dominates debate Edward Said’s Shadowy Legacy [incl. Daniel Martin Varisco, Bernard Lewis, et al.]

(The link to the TLS essay again sends the reader to the current edition!)

Mr. Irwin needs to cultivate new Academic Enemies! Steven Salaita and his ‘Inter/Nationalism: Decolonizing Native America and Palestine‘ a partial review of this book by Alex Lubin provides … The only problem is that Prof. Salaita is now a school bus driver:

‘Ousted’ From Academe, Steven Salaita Says He’s Driving a School Bus to Make Ends Meet

That is how the Resectable Bourgeois Academy handles political dissidents! Said had tenure, but he was the target of rhetorical attacks. But times have changed:

Headline: Harvard Hillel Executive Director Accuses Cornel West, Supporters of Furthering ‘Anti-Jewish Conspiracy Theory’ In Tenure Controversy

Responding to vigorous campus support for Professor Cornel R. West ’74 — who said last month Harvard declined to consider him for tenure in part due to his outspoken criticism of Israel’s treatment of Palestinians — Rabbi Jonah C. Steinberg, executive director of Harvard Hillel, criticized West for having “egged students on” in “scapegoating and demonizing” Jewish people.

In an email to Hillel affiliates Friday, Steinberg wrote he believes a student petition condemning Harvard’s alleged decision to not consider West for tenure is based on “an anti-Jewish conspiracy theory.”

The petition cites West’s belief that he was denied tenure consideration due to his opposition to “the settler colonial violence of Israel’s occupation of Palestine” and references Zionism in a list of ideologies it says West has critiqued, alongside “white supremacy, racial capitalism,” and “the military-industrial complex.”

The specious charge of ‘Anti-Semitism’ is the newest, and most effective solvent, for academic careers of dissidents like Steven Salaita and Cornel West ?

American Writer


Added March 14, 2021

For added perspective on Said, and Mr. Irwin’s animus, for want of a better descriptor, toward Said. And a valid concern about Orientalism, and its evolution in Western Discourse, read Maya Jasanoff’s June 2006 essay titled ‘Before and After Said’ in the London Review of Books. Here is her concluding paragraph, which offers the reader a ‘middle way’ of understanding ,on the question of Orientalism, in both Said and Irwin.

Surely Said’s most enduring legacy has been to embed in a rising generation of Western scholars, many of whom are now contemporaries of Orientalism itself, the awareness that their work has political substance and ramifications, whether or not it might appear to be political a priori. Said wanted to break down what he saw as a false ‘distinction between pure and political knowledge’. Does that mean facts do not exist, or that evidence does not matter? Certainly not. But it does mean that scholars ought to be aware of the circumstances governing the kind of knowledge they produce and circulate. An American tourist of average means can visit the library of Tamegroute, scrutinise the manuscripts and come home with stories and snapshots, while the custodians of such repositories can almost certainly not afford trips abroad, are even less likely to be able to obtain Western visas, and could not under any plausible circumstances participate in Western scholarly discourse. So thank goodness for Orientalists like those profiled by Irwin, who have sought to reach across cultural divides and understand languages, histories and faiths other than their own. But thank goodness too for Orientalism, which has helped make scholars more conscious of the sources of their own perspectives and privileges in the first place.

A. W.

About stephenkmacksd

Rootless cosmopolitan,down at heels intellectual;would be writer. 'Polemic is a discourse of conflict, whose effect depends on a delicate balance between the requirements of truth and the enticements of anger, the duty to argue and the zest to inflame. Its rhetoric allows, even enforces, a certain figurative licence. Like epitaphs in Johnson’s adage, it is not under oath.'
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