chapter  1
16 Pages

‘A Roomy Place Full of Possibility’: Said’s Orientalism and the Literary


This chapter closely re-examines the treatment of the literary in Orientalism. I will draw also on later texts, including interviews, but should state at the outset that my aim is not to track conceptions of the literary across Said’s body of work or to offer an account of his intellectual trajectory. I should add that I do not wish to deny that Said contradicts himself in his approach to the literary, in Orientalism and beyond; and I accept that some of the contradictions seem like matters of simple inconsistency or even prejudice.4 Yet Orientalism remains a deeply infl uential text, and I want to suggest that it captures fundamental tensions around the literary that continue to mark much of the critical activity that has fl ourished in its wake.