Places of Mind: A Life of Edward Said

Farrar. Mar. 2021. 464p. ISBN 9780374146535. $35. BIOG
Edward Said (1935–2003) is best known for his 1978 book Orientalism, which revolutionized the study of the Eastern world and heavily influenced the emerging field of postcolonial studies as well as literary studies in general. In Orientalism, he argued that Western authors had painted a negative picture of the Middle East throughout the ages. The book was controversial, as were Said’s public interventions in support of Palestine, his homeland. Brennan (humanities, Univ. of Minnesota; At Home in the World), one of Said’s former students, offers insight into one of the foremost public intellectuals of the postwar period, beginning with his early years in Jerusalem and Cairo. As an adult, Said garnered recognition in his academic career, teaching comparative literature at Columbia University from 1963 to 2003, and serving as a visiting lecturer at universities around the world. Brennan effectively uses a range of primary sources to provide insight into what influenced Said’s thinking, and how he handled criticism of his noteworthy work.
VERDICT While there is a great deal of theory in this sweeping biography, Brennan has succeeded in writing an account that is both an act of love and a solid study of a fascinating man.
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