Culture and Imperialism by Edward W Said - review by Matt Seaton

Matt Seaton

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Culture and Imperialism


Chatto & Windus 480pp £20

‘There is no document of civilisation which is not at the same time a document of barbarism.’ It is no wonder that Walter Benjamin is so beloved of literary critics: dead for more than half a century, he still seems able to supply an epigram for every occasion. The only wonder is that Edward Said saves these particular mots justes for the final pages, for they set out in glorious brevity the central theme of his monumental study.

In the first instance, the relevant documents of civilisation are the canonical works of English literature, especially those in the novel form, which were written between the end of the eighteenth and the middle of the twentieth centuries. Said’s interest is guided by the fact that these works (of Austen,

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