In This Review

By Edward Said
Pantheon, 1978, 368 pp

Few books on the Middle East have aroused more controversy than this dazzling attack on traditional scholarship. Said is relentless in exposing the hidden, and not-so-hidden, agendas and assumptions of many Western scholars who have written about the Middle East. He brings to the task of deconstructing the arguments of self-described "Orientalists" the tools of the literary critic -- and he takes no prisoners. His detractors, most notably Bernard Lewis, fault him for careless scholarship and for rejecting virtually the whole corpus of Western writing on the Middle East. But no one writing on the Middle East today can be as unselfconscious about the assumptions made or questions asked as those who preceded Said. He has also spawned a new field of Occidentalism, which examines how writers in the Middle East looked at the West.