Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

"Science," the Greek word for knowledge, when appended to the word "political," creates what seems like an oxymoron. For who could claim to know politics? More complicated than any game, most people who play it become addicts and die without understanding what they were addicted to. The rest of us suffer under their malpractice as our "leaders." A truer case of the blind leading the blind could not be found. Plumb the depths of confusion here.

Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Wed Aug 26, 2020 4:38 am

Part 1 of 2

II- Silvestre de Sacy and Ernest Renan: Rational Anthropology and Philological Laboratory

The two great themes of Silvestre de Sacy's life are heroic effort and a dedicated sense of pedagogic and rational utility. Born in 1757 into a Jansenist family whose occupation was traditionally that of notaire, Antoine-Isaac-Silvestre was privately tutored at a Benedictine abbey, first in Arabic, Syriac, and Chaldean, then in Hebrew. Arabic in particular was the language that opened the Orient to him since it was in Arabic, according to Joseph Reinaud, that Oriental material, both sacred and profane, was then to be found in its oldest and most instructive form.11 Although a legitimist, in 1769 he was appointed the first teacher of Arabic at the newly created school of langues orientales vivantes, of which he became director in 1824. In 1806 he was named professor at the College de France, although from 1805 on he was the resident Orientalist at the French Foreign Ministry. There his work (unpaid until 1811) at first was to translate the bulletins of the Grande Armee and Napoleon's Manifesto of 1806, in which it was hoped that "Muslim fanaticism" could be excited against Russian Orthodoxy. But for many years thereafter Sacy created interpreters for the French Oriental dragomanate, as well as future scholars. When the French occupied Algiers in 1830, it was Sacy who translated the proclamation to the Algerians; he was regularly consulted on all diplomatic matters relating to the Orient by the foreign minister, and on occasion by the minister of war. At the age of seventy-five he replaced Dacier as secretary of the Academie des Inscriptions, and also became curator of Oriental manuscripts at the Bibliotheque royale. Throughout his long and distinguished career his name was rightly associated with the restructuring and re-forming of education (particularly in Oriental studies) in post-Revolutionary France.12 With Cuvier, Sacy in 1832 was made a new peer of France.

It was not only because he was the first president of the Societe asiatique (founded in 1822) that Sacy's name is associated with the beginning of modern Orientalism; it is because his work virtually put before the profession an entire systematic body of texts, a pedagogic practice, a scholarly tradition, and an important link between Oriental scholarship and public policy. In Sacy's work, for the first time in Europe since the Council of Vienne, there was a self-conscious methodological principle at work as a coeval with scholarly discipline. No less important, Sacy always felt himself to be a man standing at the beginning of an important revisionist project. He was a self-aware inaugurator, and more to the point of our general thesis, he acted in his writing like a secularized ecclesiastic for whom his Orient and his students were doctrine and parishioners respectively. The Duc de Broglie, an admiring contemporary, said of Sacy's work that it reconciled the manner of a scientist with that of a Biblical teacher, and that Sacy was the one man able to reconcile "the goals of Leibniz with the efforts of Bossuet."13 Consequently everything he wrote was addressed specifically to students (in the case of his first work, his Principes de grammaire générale of 1799, the student was his own son) and presented, not as a novelty, but as a revised extract of the best that had already been done, said, or written.

These two characteristics-the didactic presentation to students and the avowed intention of repeating by revision and extract-are crucial. Sacy's writing always conveys the tone of a voice speaking; his prose is dotted with first-person pronouns, with personal qualifications, with rhetorical presence. Even at his most recondite-as in a scholarly note on third-century Sassanid numismatics-one senses not so much a pen writing as a voice pronouncing. The keynote of his work is contained in the opening lines of the dedication to his son of the Principes de grammaire générale: "C'est à toi, mon cher Fils, que ce petit ouvrage a été entrepris"-which is to say, I am writing (or speaking) to you because you need to know these things, and since they don't exist in any serviceable form, I have done the work myself for you. Direct address: utility: effort: immediate and beneficent rationality. For Sacy believed that everything could be made clear and reasonable, no matter how difficult the task and how obscure the subject. Here are Bossuet's sternness and Leibniz's abstract humanism, as well as the tone of Rousseau, all together in the same style.

The effect of Sacy's tone is to form a circle sealing off him and his audience from the world at large, the way a teacher and his pupils together in a closed classroom also form a sealed space. Unlike the matter of physics, philosophy, or classical literature, the matter of Oriental studies is arcane; it is of import to people who already have an interest in the Orient but want to know the Orient better, in a more orderly way, and here the pedagogical discipline is more effective than it is attractive. The didactic speaker, therefore, displays his material to the disciples, whose role it is to receive what is given to them in the form of carefully selected and arranged topics. Since the Orient is old and distant, the teacher's display is a restoration, a revision of what has disappeared from the wider ken. And since also the vastly rich (in space, time, and cultures) Orient cannot be totally exposed, only its most representative parts need be. Thus Sacy's focus is the anthology, the chrestomathy, the tableau, the survey of general principles, in which a relatively small set of powerful examples delivers the Orient to the student. Such examples are powerful for two reasons: one, because they reflect Sacy's powers as a Western authority deliberately taking from the Orient what its distance and eccentricity have hitherto kept hidden, and two, because these examples have the semiotical power in them (or imparted to them by the Orientalist) to signify the Orient.

All of Sacy's work is essentially compilatory; it is thus ceremoniously didactic and painstakingly revisionist. Aside from the Principes de grammaire générale, he produced a Chrestomathie arabe in three volumes (1806 and 1827 ), an anthology of Arab grammatical writing (1825), an Arabic grammar of 1810 (d l'usage des élèves de l'Ecole spéciale), treatises on Arabic prosody and the Druze religion, and numerous short works on Oriental numismatics, onomastics, epigraphy, geography, history, and weights and measures. He did a fair number of translations and two extended commentaries on Calila and Dumna and the Maqamat of al-Hariri. As editor, memorialist, and historian of modern learning Sacy was similarly energetic. There was very little of note in other related disciplines with which he was not au courant, although his own writing was single-minded and, in its non-Orientalist respects, of a narrow positivist range.

Yet when in 1802 the Institut de France was commissioned by Napoleon to form a tableau générale on the state and progress of the arts and sciences since 1789, Sacy was chosen to be one of the team of writers: he was the most rigorous of specialists and the most historical-minded of generalists. Dacier's report, as it was known informally, embodied many of Sacy's predilections as well as containing his contributions on the state of Oriental learning. Its title -Tableau historique de l'érudition française-announces the new historical (as opposed to sacred) consciousness. Such consciousness is dramatic: learning can be arranged on a stage set, as it were, where its totality can be readily surveyed. Addressed to the king, Dacier's preface stated the theme perfectly. Such a survey as this made it possible to do something no other sovereign had attempted, namely to take in, with one coup d'oeil, the whole of human knowledge. Had such a tableau historique been undertaken in former times, Dacier continued, we might today have possessed many masterpieces now either lost or destroyed; the interest and utility of the tableau were that it preserved knowledge and made it immediately accessible. Dacier intimated that such a task was simplified by Napoleon's Oriental expedition, one of whose results was to heighten the degree of modern geographical knowledge.14

(At no point more than in Dacier's entire discours do we see how the dramatic form of a tableau historique has its use-equivalent in the arcades and counters of a modern department store.)

The importance of the Tableau historique for an understanding of Orientalism's inaugural phase is that it exteriorizes the form of Orientalist knowledge. and its features, as it also describes the Orientalist's relationship to his subject matter. In Sacy's pages on Orientalism-as elsewhere in his writing-he speaks of his own work as having uncovered, brought to light, rescued a vast amount of obscure matter. Why? In order to place it before the student. For like all his learned contemporaries Sacy considered a learned work a positive addition to an edifice that all scholars erected together. Knowledge was essentially the making visible of material, and the aim of a tableau was the construction of a sort of Benthamite Panopticon. Scholarly discipline was therefore a specific technology of power: it gained for its user (and his students) tools and knowledge which (if he was a historian) had hitherto been lost.15 And indeed the vocabulary of specialized power and acquisition is particularly associated with Sacy's reputation as a pioneer Orientalist. His heroism as a scholar was to have dealt successfully with insurmountable difficulties; he acquired the means to present a field to his students where there was none. He made the books, the precepts, the examples, said the Duc de Broglie of Sacy. The result was the production of material about the Orient, methods for studying it, and exempla that even Orientals did not have.16

Compared with the labors of a Hellenist or a Latinist working on the Institut team, Sacy's labors were awesome. They had the texts, the conventions, the schools; he did not, and consequently had to go about making them. The dynamic of primary loss and subsequent gain in Sacy's writing is obsessional; his investment in it was truly heavy. Like his colleagues in other fields he believed that knowledge is seeing-panoptically, so to speak-but unlike them he not only had to identify the knowledge, he had to decipher it, interpret it, and most difficult, make it available. Sacy's achievement was to have produced a whole field. As a European he ransacked the Oriental archives, and he could do so without leaving France. What texts he isolated, he then brought back; he doctored them; then he annotated, codified, arranged, and commented on them. In time, the Orient as such became less important than what the Orientalist made of it; thus, drawn by Sacy into the sealed discursive place of a pedagogical tableau, the Orientalist's Orient was thereafter reluctant to emerge into reality.

Sacy was much too intelligent to let his views and his practice stand without supporting argument. First of all, he always made it plain why the "Orient" on its own could not survive a European's taste, intelligence, or patience. Sacy defended the utility and interest of such things as Arabic poetry, but what he was really saying was that Arabic poetry had to be properly transformed by the Orientalist before it could begin to be appreciated. The reasons were broadly epistemological, but they also contained an Orientalistic self-justification. Arabic poetry was produced by a completely strange (to Europeans) people, under hugely different climatic, social, and historical conditions from those a European knows; in addition, such poetry as this was nourished by "opinions, prejudices, beliefs, superstitions which we can acquire only after long and painful study." Even if one does go through the rigors of specialized training, much of the description in the poetry will not be accessible to Europeans "who have attained to a higher degree of civilization." Yet what we can master is of great value to us as Europeans accustomed to disguise our exterior attributes, our bodily activity, and our relationship to nature. Therefore, the Orientalist's use is to make available to his compatriots a considerable range of unusual experience, and still more valuable, a kind of literature capable of helping us understand the "truly divine" poetry of the Hebrews.17

So if the Orientalist is necessary because he fishes some useful gems out of the distant Oriental deep, and since the Orient cannot be known without his mediation, it is also true that Oriental writing itself ought not to be taken in whole. This is Sacy's introduction to his theory of fragments, a common Romantic concern. Not only are Oriental literary productions essentially alien to the European; they also do not contain a sustained enough interest, nor are they written with enough "taste and critical spirit," to merit publication except as extracts (pour meriter d'être publies autrement que par extrait).18 Therefore the Orientalist is required to present the Orient by a series of representative fragments, fragments republished, explicated, annotated, and surrounded with still more fragments. For such a presentation a special genre is required: the chrestomathy, which is where in Sacy's case the usefulness and interest of Orientalism are most directly and profitably displayed. Sacy's most famous production was the three-volume Chrestomathie arabe, which was sealed at the outset, so to speak, with an internally rhyming Arabic couplet: "Kitab al-anis al-mufid lil-Taleb al- mustafid;/wa gam'i al shathur min manthoum wa manthur" (A book pleasant and profitable for the studious pupil;/it collects fragments of both poetry and prose).

Sacy's anthologies were used very widely in Europe for several generations. Although what they contain was claimed as typical, they submerge and cover the censorship of the Orient exercised by the Orientalist. Moreover, the internal order of their contents, the arrangement of their parts, the choice of fragments, never reveal their secret; one has the impression that if fragments were not chosen for their importance, or for their chronological development, or for their aesthetic beauty (as Sacy's were not), they must nevertheless embody a certain Oriental naturalness, or typical inevitability. But this too is never said. Sacy claims simply to have exerted himself on behalf of his students, to make it unnecessary for them to purchase (or read) a grotesquely large library of Oriental stuff. In time, the reader forgets the Orientalist's effort and takes the restructuring of the Orient signified by a chrestomathy as the Orient tout court. Objective structure (designation of Orient) and subjective restructure (representation of Orient by Orientalist) become interchangeable. The Orient is overlaid with the Orientalist's rationality; its principles become his. From being distant, it becomes available; from being unsustainable on its own, it becomes pedagogically useful; from being lost, it is found, even if its missing parts have been made to drop away from it in the process. Sacy's anthologies not only supplement the Orient; they supply it as Oriental presence to the West.19 Sacy's work canonizes the Orient; it begets a canon of textual objects passed on from one generation of students to the next.

And the living legacy of Sacy's disciples was astounding. Every major Arabist in Europe during the nineteenth century traced his intellectual authority back to him. Universities and academies in France, Spain, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, and especially Germany were dotted with the students who formed themselves at his feet and through the anthological tableaux provided by his work.20 As with all intellectual patrimonies, however, enrichments and restrictions were passed on simultaneously. Sacy's genealogical originality was to have treated the Orient as something to be restored not only because of but also despite the modern Orient's disorderly and elusive presence. Sacy placed the Arabs in the Orient, which was itself placed in the general tableau of modern learning. Orientalism belonged therefore to European scholarship, but its material had to be recreated by the Orientalist before it could enter the arcades alongside Latinism and Hellenism. Each Orientalist re-created his own Orient according to the fundamental epistemological rules of loss and gain first supplied and enacted by Sacy. Just as he was the father of Orientalism, he was also the discipline's first sacrifice, for in translating new texts, fragments, and extracts subsequent Orientalists entirely displaced Sacy's work by supplying their own restored Orient. Nevertheless the process he started would continue, as philology in particular developed systematic and institutional powers Sacy had never exploited. This was Renan's accomplishment: to have associated the Orient with the most recent comparative disciplines, of which philology was one of the most eminent.

The difference between Sacy and Renan is the difference between inauguration and continuity. Sacy is the originator, whose work represents the field's emergence and its status as a nineteenth-century discipline with roots in revolutionary Romanticism. Renan derives from Orientalism's second generation: it was his task to solidify the official discourse of Orientalism, to systematize its insights, and to establish its intellectual and worldly institutions. For Sacy, it was his personal efforts that launched and vitalized the field and its structures; for Renan, it was his adaptation of Orientalism to philology and both of them to the intellectual culture of his time that perpetuated the Orientalist structures intellectually and gave them greater visibility.

Renan was a figure in his own right neither of total originality nor of absolute derivativeness. Therefore as a cultural force or as an important Orientalist he cannot be reduced simply to his personality nor to a set of schematic ideas in which he believed. Rather, Renan is best grasped as a dynamic force whose opportunities were already created for him by pioneers like Sacy, yet who brought their achievements into the culture as a kind of currency which he circulated and recirculated with (to force the image a little further) his own unmistakable re-currency. Renan is a figure who must be grasped, in short, as a type of cultural and intellectual praxis, as a style for making Orientalist statements within what Michel Foucault would call the archive of his time.21 What matters is not only the things that Renan said but also how he said them, what, given his background and training,-he chose to use as his subject matter, what to combine with what, and so forth. Renan's relations with his Oriental subject matter, with his time and audience, even with his own work, can be described, then, without resorting to formulae that depend on an unexamined assumption of ontological stability (e.g., the Zeitgeist, the history of ideas, life-and-times). Instead we are able to read Renan as a writer doing something describable, in a place defined temporally, spatially, and culturally (hence archivally), for an audience and, no less important, for the furtherance of his own position in the Orientalism of his era.

Renan came to Orientalism from philology, and it is the extraordinarily rich and celebrated cultural position of that discipline that endowed Orientalism with its most important technical characteristics. For anyone to whom the word philology suggests dry-as-dust and inconsequential word-study, however, Nietzsche's proclamation that along with the greatest minds of the nineteenth century he is a philologist will come as a surprise-though not if Balzac's Louis Lambert is recalled:

What a marvelous book one would write by narrating the life and adventures of a word! Undoubtedly a word has received various impressions of the events for which it was used; depending on the places it was used, a word has awakened different kinds of impressions in different people; but is it not more grand still to consider a word in its triple aspect of soul, body, and movement?22

What is the category, Nietzsche will ask later, that includes himself, Wagner, Schopenhauer, Leopardi, all as philologists? The term seems to include both a gift for exceptional spiritual insight into language and the ability to produce work whose articulation is of aesthetic and historical power. Although the profession of philology was born the day in 1777 "when F. A. Wolf invented for himself the name of stud. philol.," Nietzsche is nevertheless at pains to show that professional students of the Greek and Roman classics are commonly incapable of understanding their discipline: "they never reach the roots of the matter: they never adduce philology as a problem." For simply "as knowledge of the ancient world philology cannot, of course, last forever; its material is exhaustible."23 It is this that the herd of philologists cannot understand. But what distinguishes the few exceptional spirits whom Nietzsche deems worthy of praise-not unambiguously, and not in the cursory way that I am now describing-is their profound relation to modernity, a relation that is given them by their practice of philology.

Philology problematizes itself ,its practitioner, the present. It embodies a peculiar condition of being modern and European, since neither of those two categories has true meaning without being related to an earlier alien culture and time. What Nietzsche also sees is philology as something born, made in the Viconian sense as a sign of human enterprise, created as a category of human discovery, self-discovery, and originality. Philology is a way of historically setting oneself off, as great artists do, from one's time and an immediate past even as, paradoxically and antinomically, one actually characterizes one's modernity by so doing.

Between the Friedrich August Wolf of 1777 and the Friedrich Nietzsche of 1875 there is Ernest Renan, an Oriental philologist, also a man with a complex and interesting sense of the way philology and modern culture are involved in each other. In L'Avenir de la science (written in 1848 but not published till 1890) he wrote that "the founders of modern mind are philologists." And what is modern mind, he said in the preceding sentence, if not "rationalism, criticism, liberalism, [all of which] were founded on the same day as philology?" Philology, he goes on to say, is both a comparative discipline possessed only by moderns and a symbol of modern (and European) superiority; every advance made by humanity since the fifteenth century can b0 attributed to minds we should call philological. The job of philology in modern culture (a culture Renan calls philological) is to continue to see reality and nature clearly, thus driving out supernaturalism, and to continue to keep pace with discoveries in the physical sciences. But more than all this, philology enables a general view of human life and of the system of things: "Me, being there at the center, inhaling the perfume of everything, judging, comparing, combining, inducing-in this way I shall arrive at the very system of things." There is an unmistakable aura of power about the philologist. And Renan makes his point about philology and the natural sciences:

To do philosophy is to know things; following Cuvier's nice phrase, philosophy is instructing the world in theory. Like Kant I believe that every purely speculative demonstration has no more validity than a mathematical demonstration, and can teach us nothing about existing reality. Philology is the exact science of mental objects [La philologie est la science exacte des choses de l'esprit]. It is to the sciences of humanity what physics and chemistry are to the philosophic sciences of bodies.24

I shall return to Renan's citation from Cuvier, as well as to the constant references to natural science, a little later. For the time being, we should remark that the whole middle section of L'Avenir de la science is taken up with Renan's admiring accounts of philology, a science he depicts as being at once the most difficult of all human endeavors to characterize and the most precise of all disciplines. In the aspirations of philology to a veritable science of humanity, Renan associates himself explicitly with Vico, Herder, Wolf, and Montesquieu as well as with such philological near-contemporaries as Wilhelm von Humboldt, Bopp, and the great Orientalist Eugene Burnouf (to whom the volume is dedicated). Renan locates philology centrally within what he everywhere refers to as the march of knowledge, and indeed the book itself is a manifesto of humanistic meliorism, which, considering its subtitle ("Pensées de 1848") and other books of 1848 like Bouvard et Pécuchet and The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, is no mean irony. In a sense, then, the manifesto generally and Renan's accounts of philology particularly-he had by then already written the massive philological treatise on Semitic languages that had earned him the Prix Volney-were designed to place Renan as an intellectual in a clearly perceptible relationship to the great social issues raised by 1848. That he should choose to fashion such a relationship on the basis of the least immediate of all intellectual disciplines (philology), the one with the least degree of apparent popular relevance, the most conservative and the most traditional, suggests the extreme deliberateness of Renan's position. For he did not really speak as one man to all men but rather as a reflective, specialized voice that took, as he put it in the 1890 preface, the inequality of races and the necessary domination of the many by the few for granted as an antidemocratic law of nature and society.25

But how was it possible for Renan to hold himself and what he was saying in such a paradoxical position? For what was philology on the one hand if not a science of all humanity, a science premised on the unity of the human species and the worth of every human detail, and yet what was the philologist on the other hand if not as Renan himself proved with his notorious race prejudice against the very Oriental Semites whose study had made his professional name 26--a harsh divider of men into superior and inferior races, a liberal critic whose work harbored the most esoteric notions of temporality, origins, development, relationship, and human worth? Part of the answer to this question is that, as his early letters of philological intent to Victor Cousin, Michelet, and Alexander von Humboldt show, 27 Renan had a strong guild sense as a professional scholar, a professional Orientalist, in fact, a sense that put distance between himself and the masses. But more important, I think, is Renan's own conception of his role as an Oriental philologist within philology's larger history, development, and objectives as he saw them. In other words, what may to us seem like paradox was the expected result of how Renan perceived his dynastic position within philology, its history and inaugural discoveries, and what he, Renan, did within it. Therefore Renan should be characterized, not as speaking about philology, but rather as speaking philologically with all the force of an initiate using the encoded language of a new prestigious science none of whose pronouncements about language itself could be construed either directly or naively.

As Renan understood, received, and was instructed in philology, the discipline imposed a set of doxological rules upon him. To be a philologist meant to be governed in one's activity first of all by a set of recent revaluative discoveries that effectively began the science of philology and gave it a distinctive epistemology of its own: I am speaking here of the period roughly from the 1780s to the mid-1830s, the latter part of which coincides with the period of Renan's beginning his education. His memoirs record how the crisis of religious faith that culminated in the loss of that faith led him in 1845 into a life of scholarship: this was his initiation into philology, its world-view, crises, and style. He believed that on a personal level his life reflected the institutional life of philology. In his life, however, he determined to be as Christian as he once was, only now without Christianity and with what he called "la science laique" (lay science).28

The best example of what a lay science could and could not do was provided years later by Renan in a lecture given at the Sorbonne in 1878, "On the Services Rendered by Philology to the Historical Sciences." What is revealing about this text is the way Renan clearly had religion in mind when he spoke about philology-for example, what philology, like religion, teaches us about the origins of humanity, civilization, and language-only to make it evident to his hearers that philology could deliver a far less coherent, less knitted together and positive message than religion.29 Since Renan was irremediably historical and, as he once put it, morphological in his outlook, it stood to reason that the only way in which, as a very young man, he could move out of religion into philological scholarship was to retain in the new lay science the historical world-view he had gained from religion. Hence, "one occupation alone seemed to me to be worthy of filling my life; and that was to pursue my critical research into Christianity [an allusion to Renan's major scholarly project on the history and origins of Christianity] using those far ampler means offered me by lay science."30 Renan had assimilated himself to philology according to his own post Christian fashion.

The difference between the history offered internally by Christianity and the history offered by philology, a relatively new discipline, is precisely what made modern philology possible, and this Renan knew perfectly. For whenever "philology" is spoken of around the end of the eighteenth century and the beginning of the nineteenth, we are to understand the new philology, whose major successes include comparative grammar, the reclassification of languages into families, and the final rejection of the divine origins of language. It is no exaggeration to say that these accomplishments were a more or less direct consequence of the view that held language to be an entirely human phenomenon. And this view became current once it was discovered empirically that the so-called sacred languages (Hebrew, primarily) were neither of primordial antiquity nor of divine provenance. What Foucault has called the discovery of language was therefore a secular event that displaced a religious conception of how God delivered language to man in Eden.31 Indeed, one of the consequences of this change, by which, an etymological, dynastic notion of linguistic filiation was pushed aside by the view of language as a domain all of its own held together with jagged internal structures and coherences, is the dramatic subsidence of interest in the problem of the origins of language. Whereas in the 1770s, which is when Herder's essay on the origins of language wont the 1772 medal from the Berlin Academy, it was all the rage to discuss that problem, by the first decade of the new century it was all but banned as a topic for learned dispute in Europe.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Wed Aug 26, 2020 4:38 am

Part 2 of 2

On all sides, and in many different ways, what William Jones stated in his Anniversary Discourses (1785-1792), or what Franz Bopp put forward in his Vergleichende Grammatik (1832), is that the divine dynasty of language was ruptured definitively and discredited as an idea. A new historical conception, in short, was needed, since Christianity seemed unable to survive the empirical evidence that reduced the divine status of its major text. For some, as Chateaubriand put it, faith was unshakable despite new knowledge of how Sanskrit outdated Hebrew: "Hélas! il est arrivé qu'une connaissance plus approfondie de la langue savante de l'Inde a fait rentrer ces siècles innombrables dans le cercle ètroit de la Bible.Bien m'en a pris d'etre redevenue croyant, avant d'avoir éprouvé cette mortification."32 (Alas! it has happened that a deeper knowledge of the learned language of India has forced innumerable centuries into the narrow circle of the Bible. How lucky for me that I have become a believer again before having had to experience this mortification.) For others, especially philologists like the pioneering Bopp himself, the study of language entailed its own history, philosophy, and learning, all of which did away with any notion of a primal language given by the Godhead to man in Eden. As the study of Sanskrit and the expansive mood of the later eighteenth century seemed to have moved the earliest beginnings of civilization very far east of the Biblical lands, so too language became less of a continuity between an outside power and the human speaker than an internal field created and accomplished by language users among themselves. There was no first language, just as--- except by a method I shall discuss presently-there was no simple language.

The legacy of these first-generation philologists was, to Renan, of the highest importance, higher even than the work done by Sacy. Whenever he discussed language and philology, whether at the beginning, middle, or end of his long career, he repeated the lessons of the new philology, of which the antidynastic, anticontinuous tenets of a technical (as opposed to a divine) linguistic practice are the major pillar. For the linguist, language cannot be pictured as the result of force emanating unilaterally from God. As Coleridge put it, "Language is the armory of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of its past and the weapons of its future conquests."33 The idea of a first Edenic language gives way to the heuristic notion of a protolanguage (Indo-European, Semitic) whose existence is never a subject of debate, since it is acknowledged that such a language cannot be recaptured but can only be reconstituted in the philological process. To the extent that one language serves, again heuristically, as a touchstone for all the others, it is Sanskrit in its earliest Indo-European form. The terminology has also shifted: there are now families of languages (the analogy with species and anatomical classifications is marked), there is perfect linguistic form, which need not correspond to any "real" language, and there are original languages only as a function of the philological discourse, not because of nature.

But some writers shrewdly commented on how it was that Sanskrit and things Indian in general simply took the place of Hebrew and the Edenic fallacy. As early as 1804 Benjamin Constant noted in his Journal intime that he was not about to discuss India in his De la religion because the English who owned the place and the Germans who studied it indefatigably had made India the tons et origo of everything; and then there were the French who had decided after Napoleon and Champollion that everything originated in Egypt and the new Orient.34 These teleological enthusiasms were fueled after 1808 by Friedrich Schlegel's celebrated Über die Sprache and Weisheit der Indier, which seemed to confirm his own pronouncement made in 1800 about the Orient being the purest form of Romanticism.

What Renan's generation-educated from the mid-1830s to the late 1840sretained from all this enthusiasm about the Orient was the intellectual necessity of the Orient for the Occidental scholar of languages, cultures, and religions. Here the key text was Edgar Quinet's Le Génie des religions (1832), a work that announced the Oriental Renaissance and placed the Orient and the West in a functional relationship with each other. I have already referred to the vast meaning of this relationship as analyzed comprehensively by Raymond Schwab in La Renaissance orientale; my concern with it here is only to note specific aspects of it that bear upon Renan's vocation as a philologist and as an Orientalist. Quinet's association with Michelet, their interest in Herder and Vico, respectively, impressed on them the need for the scholar-historian to confront, almost in the manner of an audience seeing a dramatic event unfold, or a believer witnessing a revelation, the different, the strange, the distant. Quinet's formulation was that the Orient proposes and the West disposes: Asia has its prophets, Europe its doctors (its learned men, its scientists: the pun is intended). Out of this encounter, a new dogma or god is born, but Quinet's point is that both East and West fulfill their destinies and confirm their identities in the encounter. As a scholarly attitude the picture of a learned Westerner surveying as if from a peculiarly suited vantage point the passive, seminal, feminine, even silent and supine East, then going on to articulate the East, making the Orient deliver up its secrets under the learned authority of a philologist whose power derives from the ability to unlock secret, esoteric languages-this would persist in Renan. What did not persist in Renan during the 1840s, when he served his apprenticeship as a philologist, was the dramatic attitude: that was replaced by the scientific attitude.

For Quinet and Michelet, history was a drama. Quinet suggestively describes the whole world as a temple and human history as a sort of religious rite. Both Michelet and Quinet saw the world they discussed. The origin of-human history was something they could describe in the same splendid and impassioned and dramatic terms used by Vico and Rousseau to portray life on earth in primitive times. For Michelet and Quinet there is no doubt that they belong to the communal European Romantic undertaking "either in epic or some other major genre-in drama, in prose romance, or in the visionary `greater Ode'-radically to recast into terms appropriate to the historical and intellectual circumstances of their own age, the Christian pattern of the fall, the redemption, and the emergence of a new earth which will constitute a restored paradise."35 I think that for Quinet the idea of a new god being born was tantamount to the filling of the place left by the old god; for Renan, however, being a philologist meant the severance of any and all connections with the old Christian god, so that instead a new doctrine probably science would stand free and in a new place, as it were. Renan's whole career was devoted to the fleshing out of this progress.

He put it very plainly at the end of his undistinguished essay on the origins of language: man is no longer an inventor, and the age of creation is definitely over.36There was a period, at which we can only guess, when man was literally transported from silence into words. After that there was language, and for the true scientist the task is to examine how language is, not how it came about. Yet if Renan dispels the passionate creation of primitive times (which had excited Herder, Vico, Rousseau, even Quinet and Michelet) he instates a new, and deliberate, type of artificial creation, one that is performed as a result of scientific analysis. In his leçon inaugurale at the College de France (February 21, 1862) Renan proclaimed his lectures open to the public so that it might see at first hand "le laboratoire même de la science philologique" (the very laboratory of philological science).37 Any reader of Renan would have understood that such a statement was meant also to carry a typical if rather limp irony, one less intended to shock than passively to delight. For Renan was succeeding to the chair of Hebrew, and his lecture was on the contribution of the Semitic peoples to the history of civilization. What more subtle affront could there be to "sacred" history than the substitution of a philological laboratory for divine intervention in history; and what more telling way was there of declaring the Orient's contemporary relevance to be simply as material for European investigation? 38 Sacy's comparatively lifeless fragments arranged in tableaux were now being replaced with something new.

The stirring peroration with which Renan concluded his leçon had another function than simply to connect Oriental-Semitic philology with the future and with science. Ĕtienne Quatremère, who immediately preceded Renan in the chair of Hebrew, was a scholar who seemed to exemplify the popular caricature of what a scholar was like. A man of prodigiously industrious and pedantic habits, he went about his work, Renan said in a relatively unfeeling memorial minute for the Journal des débats in October 1857, like a laborious worker who even in rendering immense services nevertheless could not see the whole edifice being constructed. The edifice was nothing less than "la science historique de l'esprit humain," now in the process of being built stone by stone.39 Just as Quatremère was not of this age, so Renan in his work was determined to be of it. Moreover, if the Orient had been hitherto identified exclusively and indiscriminately with India and China, Renan's ambition was to carve out a new Oriental province for himself, in this case the Semitic Orient. He had no doubt remarked the casual, and surely current, confusion of Arabic with Sanskrit (as in Balzac's La Peau de chagrin, where the fateful talisman's Arabic script is described as Sanskrit), and he made it his job accordingly to do for the Semitic languages what Bopp had done for the Indo-European: so he said in the 1855 preface to the comparative Semitic treatise.40 Therefore Renan's plans were to bring the Semitic languages into sharp and glamorous focus à la Bopp, and in addition to elevate the study of these neglected inferior languages to the level of a passionate new science of mind à la Louis Lambert.

On more than one occasion Renan was quite explicit in his assertions that Semites and Semitic were creations of Orientalist philological study.41Since he was the man who did the study, there was meant to be little ambiguity about the centrality of his role in this new, artificial creation. But how did Renan mean the word creation in these instances? And how was this creation connected with either natural creation, or the creation ascribed by Renan and others to the laboratory and to the classificatory and natural sciences, principally what was called philosophical anatomy? Here we must speculate a little. Throughout his career Renan seemed to imagine the role of science in human life as (and I quote in translation as literally as I can) "telling (speaking or articulating) definitively to man the word [logos?] of things."42 Science gives speech to things; better yet, science brings out, causes to be pronounced, a potential speech within things. The special value of linguistics (as the new philology was then often called) is not that natural science resembles it, but rather that it treats words as natural, otherwise silent objects, which are made to give up their secrets. Remember that the major breakthrough in the study of inscriptions and hieroglyphs was the discovery by Champollion that the symbols on the Rosetta Stone had a phonetic as well as a semantic component.43 To make objects speak was like making words speak, giving them circumstantial value, and a precise place in a rule-governed order of regularity. In its first sense, creation, as Renan used the word, signified the articulation by which an object like Semitic could be seen as a creature of sorts. Second, creation also signified the setting -in the case of Semitic it meant Oriental history, culture, race, mind-illuminated and brought forward from its reticence by the scientist. Finally, creation was the formulation of a system of classification by which it was possible to see the object in question comparatively with other like objects; and by "comparatively" Renan intended a complex network of paradigmatic relations that obtained between Semitic and Indo-European languages.

If in what I have so far said I have insisted so much on Renan's comparatively forgotten study of Semitic languages, it has been for several important reasons. Semitic was the scientific study to which Renan turned right after the loss of his Christian faith; I described above how he came to see the study of Semitic as replacing his faith and enabling .a critical future relation with it. The study of Semitic was Renan's first full-length Orientalist and scientific study (finished in 1847, published first in 1855), and was as much a part of his late major works on the origins of Christianity and the history of the Jews as it was a propaedeutic for them. In intention, if not perhaps in achievement-interestingly, few of the standard or contemporary works in either linguistic history or the history of Orientalism cite Renan with anything more than cursory attention44 ---his Semitic opus was proposed as a philological breakthrough, from which in later years he was always to draw retrospective authority for his positions (almost always bad ones) on religion, race, and nationalism.45 Whenever Renan wished to make a statement about either the Jews or the Muslims, for example, it was always with his remarkably harsh (and unfounded, except according to the science he was practicing) strictures on the Semites in mind. Furthermore, Renan's Semitic was meant as a contribution both to the development of Indo-European linguistics and to the differentiation of Orientalisms. To the former Semitic was a degraded form, degraded in both the moral and the biological sense, whereas to the latter Semitic was a-if not the-stable form of cultural decadence. Lastly, Semitic was Renan's first creation, a fiction invented by him in the philological laboratory to satisfy his sense of public place and mission. It should by no means be lost on us that Semitic was for Renan's ego the symbol of European (and consequently his) dominion over the Orient and over his own era.

Therefore, as a branch of the Orient, Semitic was not fully a natural object like a species of monkey, for instance-nor fully an unnatural or a divine object, as it had once been considered. Rather, Semitic occupied a median position, legitimated in its oddities (regularity being defined by Indo-European) by an inverse relation to normal languages, comprehended as an eccentric, quasi-monstrous phenomenon partly because libraries, laboratories, and museums could serve as its place of exhibition and analysis. In his treatise, Renan adopted a tone of voice and a method of exposition that drew the maximum from book-learning and from natural observation as practiced by men like Cuvier and the Geoffroy Saint-Hilaires père et fils. This is an important stylistic achievement, for it allowed Renan consistently to avail himself of the library, rather than either primitivity or divine fiat, as a conceptual framework in which to understand language, together with the museum, which is where the results of laboratory observation. are delivered for exhibition, study, and teaching.46 Everywhere Renan treats of normal human facts-language, history, culture, mind, imagination-as transformed into something else, as something peculiarly deviant, because they are Semitic and Oriental, and because they end up for analysis in the laboratory. Thus the Semites are rabid monotheists who produced no mythology, no art, no commerce, no civilization; their consciousness is a narrow and rigid one; all in all they represent "une combinaison inférieure de la nature humaine."47 At the same time Renan wants it understood that he speaks of a prototype, .not a real Semitic type with actual existence (although he violated this too by discussing presentday Jews and Muslims with less than scientific detachment in many places in his writings).48 So on the one hand we have the transformation of the human into the specimen, and on the other the comparative judgment rendered by which the specimen remains a specimen and a subject for philological, scientific study.

Scattered throughout the Histoire générale et systéme comparé des langues sémitiques are reflections on the links between linguistics and anatomy, and for Renan this is equally important-remarks on how these links could be employed to do human history (les sciences historiques). But first we should consider the implicit links. I do not think it wrong or an exaggeration to say that a typical page of Renan's Orientalist Histoire générale was constructed typographically and structurally with a page of comparative philosophical anatomy, in the style of Cuvier or Geoffroy Saint-Hilaire, kept in mind. Both linguists and anatomists purport to be speaking about matters not directly obtainable or observable in nature; a skeleton and a detailed line drawing of a muscle, as much as paradigms constituted by the linguists out of a purely hypothetical proto-Semitic or proto-Indo-European, are similarly products of the laboratory and of the library. The text of a linguistic or an anatomical work bears the same general relation to nature (or actuality) that a museum case exhibiting a specimen mammal or organ does. What is given on the page and in the museum case is a truncated exaggeration, like many of Sacy's Oriental extracts, whose purpose is to exhibit a relationship between the science (or scientist) and the object, not one between the object and nature. Read almost any page by Renan on Arabic, Hebrew, Aramaic, or proto-Semitic and you read a fact of power, by which the Orientalist philologist's authority summons out of the library at will examples of man's speech, and ranges them there surrounded by a suave European prose that points out defects, virtues, barbarisms, and shortcomings in the language, the people, and the civilization. The tone and the tense of the exhibition are cast almost uniformly in the contemporary present, so that one is given an impression of a pedagogical demonstration during which the scholar-scientist stands before us on a lecture-laboratory platform, creating, confining, and judging the material he discusses.

This anxiety on Renan's part to convey the sense of a demonstration actually taking place is heightened when he remarks explicitly that whereas anatomy employs stable and visible signs by which to consign objects to classes, linguistics does not.49 Therefore the philologist must make a given linguistic fact correspond in some way to a historical period: hence the possibility of a classification. Yet, as Renan was often to say, linguistic temporality and history are full of lacunae, enormous discontinuities, hypothetical periods. Therefore linguistic events occur in a nonlinear and essentially discontinuous temporal dimension controlled by the linguist in a very particular way. That way, as Renan's whole treatise on the Semitic branch of the Oriental languages goes very far to show, is comparative: Indo-European is taken as the living, organic norm, and Semitic Oriental languages are seen comparatively to be inorganic.50 Time is transformed into the space of comparative classification, which at bottom is based on a rigid binary opposition between organic and inorganic languages. So on the one hand there is the organic, biologically generative process represented by Indo-European, while on the other there is an inorganic, essentially unregenerative process, ossified into Semitic: most important, Renan makes it absolutely clear that such an imperious judgment is made by the Oriental philologist in his laboratory, for distinctions of the kind he has been concerned with are neither possible nor available for anyone except the trained professional. "Nous refusons donc aux langues sémitiques la faculté de se régénérer, toute en reconnaissant qu'elles n'échappent pas plus que les autres oeuvres de la conscience humaine à la néessité du changement et des modifications successives" (Therefore we refuse to allow that the Semitic languages have the capacity to regenerate themselves, even while recognizing that they do not escape-any more than other products of human consciousness-the necessity of change or of successive modifications).51

Yet behind even this radical opposition, there is another one working in Renan's mind, and for several pages in the first chapter of book 5 he exposes his position quite candidly to the reader. This occurs when he introduces Saint-Hilaire's views on the "degradation of types."52 Although Renan does not specify which Saint-Hilaire he refers to, the reference is clear enough. For both Étienne and his son Isidore were biological speculators of extraordinary fame and influence, particularly among literary intellectuals during the first half of the nineteenth century in France. Étienne, we recall, had been a member of the Napoleonic expedition, and Balzac dedicated an important section of the preface for La Comédie humaine to him; there is also much evidence that Flaubert read both the father and the son and used their views in his work.53 Not only were Étienne and Isidore legatees of the tradition of "Romantic" biology, which included Goethe and Cuvier, with a strong interest in analogy, homology, and organic ur-form among species, but they were also specialists in the philosophy and anatomy of monstrosityteratology, as Isidore called it-in which the most horrendous physiological aberrations were considered a result of internal degradation within the species-life.54 I cannot here go into the intricacies (as well as the macabre fascination) of teratology, though it is enough to mention that both Etienne and Isidore exploited the theoretical power of the linguistic paradigm to explain the deviations possible within a biological system. Thus Étienne's notion was that a monster is an anomaly, in the same sense that in language words exist in analogical as well as anomalous relations with each other: in linguistics the idea is at least as old as Varro's De Lingua Latina. No anomaly can be considered simply as a gratuitous exception; rather anomalies confirm the regular structure binding together all members of the same class. Such a view is quite daring in anatomy. At one moment in the "Préliminaire" to his Philosophie anatomique Étienne says:

And, indeed, such is the character of our epoch that it becomes impossible today to enclose oneself strictly within the framework of a simple monograph. Study an object in isolation and you will only be able to bring it back to itself; consequently you can never have perfect knowledge of it. But see it in the midst of beings who are connected with each other in many different ways, and which are isolated from each other in different ways, and you will discover for this object a wider scope of relationships. First of all, you will know it better, even in its specificity: but more important, by considering it in the very center of its own sphere of activity, you will know precisely how it behaves in its own exterior world, and you will also know how its own features are constituted in reaction to its surrounding milieu.55

Not only is Saint-Hilaire saying that it is the specific character of contemporary study (he was writing in 1822) to examine phenomena comparatively; he is also saying that for the scientist there is no such thing as a phenomenon, no matter how aberrant and exceptional, that cannot be explained with reference to other phenomena. Note also how Saint-Hilaire employs the metaphor of centrality (le centre de sa sphère d'activitè) used later by Renan in L'Avenir de la science to describe the position occupied by any object in nature-including even the philologist-once the object is scientifically placed there by the examining scientist. Thereafter between the object and the scientist a bond of sympathy is established. Of course, this can only take place during the laboratory experience, and not elsewhere. The point being made is that a scientist has at his disposal a sort of leverage by which even the totally unusual occurrence can be seen naturally and known scientifically, which in this case means without recourse to the supernatural, and with recourse only to an enveloping environment constituted by the scientist. As a result nature itself can be reperceived as continuous, harmoniously coherent, and fundamentally intelligible.

Thus for Renan Semitic is a phenomenon of arrested development in comparison with the mature languages and cultures of the Indo-European group, and even with the other Semitic Oriental languages.56 The paradox that Renan sustains, however, is that even as he encourages us to see languages as in some way corresponding to "etres vivants de la nature," he is everywhere else proving that his Oriental languages, the Semitic languages, are inorganic, arrested, totally ossified, incapable of self-regeneration; in other words, he proves that Semitic is not a live language, and for that matter, neither are Semites live creatures. Moreover, Indo- European language and culture are alive and organic because of the laboratory, not despite it. But far from being a marginal issue in Renan's work, this paradox stands, I believe, at the very center of his entire work, his style, and his archival existence in the culture of his time, a culture to which-as people so unlike each other as Matthew Arnold, Oscar Wilde, James Frazer, and Marcel Proust concurred -he was a very important contributor. To be able to sustain a vision that incorporates and holds together life and quasi-living creatures (Indo-European, European culture) as well as quasimonstrous, parallel inorganic phenomena (Semitic, Oriental culture) is precisely the achievement of the European scientist in his laboratory. He constructs, and the very act of construction is a sign of imperial power over recalcitrant phenomena, as well as a confirmation of the dominating culture and its "naturalization." Indeed, it is not too much to say that Renan's philological laboratory is the actual locale of his European ethnocentrism; but what needs emphasis here is that the philological laboratory has no existence outside the discourse, the writing by which it is constantly produced and experienced. Thus even the culture he calls organic and alive-Europe's-is also a creature being created in the laboratory and by philology.

Renan's entire later career was European and cultural. Its accomplishments were varied and celebrated. Whatever authority his style possessed can, I think, be traced back to his technique for constructing the inorganic (or the missing) and for giving it the appearance of life. He was most famous, of course, for his Vie de Jésus, the work that inaugurated his monumental histories of Christianity and the Jewish people. Yet we must realize that the Vie was exactly the same type of feat that the Histoire générale was, a construction enabled by the historian's capacity for skillfully crafting a dead (dead for Renan in the double sense of a dead faith and a lost, hence dead, historical period) Oriental biography -and the paradox is immediately apparent-as if it were the truthful narrative of a natural life. Whatever Renan said had first passed through the philological laboratory; when it appeared in print woven through the text, there was in it the lifegiving force of a contemporary cultural signature, which drew from modernity all its scientific power and all its uncritical self-approbation. For that sort of culture such genealogies as dynasty, tradition, religion, ethnic communities were all simply functions of a theory whose job was to instruct the world. In borrowing this latter phrase from Cuvier, Renan was circumspectly placing scientific demonstration over experience; temporality was relegated to the scientifically useless realm of ordinary experience, while to the special periodicity of culture and cultural comparativism (which spawned ethnocentrism, racial theory, and economic oppression) were given powers far in advance of moral vision.

Renan's style, his career as Orientalist and man of letters, the circumstances of the meaning he communicates, his peculiarly intimate relationship with the European scholarly and general culture of his time -- liberal, exclusivist, imperious, antihuman except in a very conditional sense -- all these are what I would call celibate and scientific. Generation for him is consigned to the realm of I'avenir, which in his famous manifesto he associated with science. Although as a historian of culture he belongs to the school of men like Turgot, Condorcet, Guizot, Cousin, Jouffroy, and Ballanche, and in scholarship to the school of Sacy, Caussin de Perceval, Ozanam, Fauriel, and Burnouf, Renan's is a peculiarly ravaged, ragingly masculine world of history and learning; it is indeed the world, not of fathers, mothers, and children, but of men like his Jesus, his Marcus Aurelius, his Caliban, his solar god (the last as described in "Rêves" of the Dialogues philosophiques).57 He cherished the power of science and Orientalist philology particularly; he sought its insights and its techniques; he used it to intervene, often with considerable effectiveness, in the life of his epoch. And yet his ideal role was that of spectator.

According to Renan, a philologist ought to prefer bonheur to jouissance: the preference expresses a choice of elevated, if sterile, happiness over sexual pleasure. Words belong to the realm of bonheur, as does the study of words, ideally speaking. To my knowledge, there are very few moments in all of Renan's public writing where a beneficent and instrumental role is assigned to women. One occurs when Renan opines that foreign women (nurses, maids) must have instructed the conquering Normans' children, and hence we can account for the changes that take place in language. Note how productivity and dissemination are not the functions aided, but rather internal change, and a subsidiary one at that. "Man," he says at the end of the same essay, "belongs neither to his language nor to his race; he belongs to himself before all, since before all he is a free being and a moral one."58 Man was free and moral, but enchained by race, history, and science as Renan saw them, conditions imposed by the scholar on man.

The study of Oriental languages took Renan to the heart of these conditions, and philology made it concretely apparent that knowledge of man was-to paraphrase Ernst Cassirer-poetically transfiguring59 only if it had been previously severed from raw actuality (as Sacy had necessarily severed his Arabic fragments from their actuality) and then put into a doxological straitjacket. By becoming philology, the study of words as once practiced by Vico, Herder, Rousseau, Michelet, and Quinet lost its plot and its dramatic presentational quality, as Schelling once called it. Instead, philology became epistemologically complex; Sprachgefűhl was no longer enough since words themselves pertained less to the senses or the body (as they had for Vico) and more to a sightless, imageless, and abstract realm ruled over by such hothouse formulations as race, mind, culture, and nation. In that realm, which was discursively constructed and called the Orient, certain kinds of assertions could be made, all of them possessing the same powerful generality and cultural validity. For all of Renan's effort was to deny Oriental culture the right to be generated, except artificially in the philological laboratory. A man was not a child of the culture; that dynastic conception had been too effectively challenged by philology. Philology taught one how culture is a construct, an articulation (in the sense that Dickens used the word for Mr. Venus's profession in Our Mutual Friend), even a creation, but not anything more than a quasi-organic structure.

What is specially interesting in Renan is how much he knew himself to be a creature of his time and of his ethnocentric culture. On the occasion of an academic response to a speech made by Ferdinand de Lesseps in 1885, Renan averred as how "it was so sad to be a wiser man than one's nation .... One cannot feel bitterness towards one's homeland. Better to be mistaken along with the nation than to be too right with those who tell it hard truths."60 The economy of such a statement is almost too perfect to be true. For does not the old Renan say that the best relationship is one of parity with one's own culture, its morality, and its ethos during one's time, that and not a dynastic relation by which one is either the child of his times or their parent? And here we return to the laboratory, for it is there-as Renan thought of it-that filial and ultimately social responsibilities cease and scientific and Orientalist ones take over. His laboratory was the platform from which as an Orientalist he addressed the world; it mediated the statements he made, gave them confidence and general precision, as well as continuity. Thus the philological laboratory as Renan understood it redefined not only his epoch and his culture, dating and shaping them in new ways; it gave his Oriental subject matter a scholarly coherence, and more, it made him (and later Orientalists in his tradition) into the Occidental cultural figure he then became. We may well wonder whether this new autonomy within the culture was the freedom Renan hoped his philological Orientalist science would bring or whether, so far as a critical historian of Orientalism is concerned, it set up a complex affiliation between Orientalism and its putative human subject matter that is based finally on power and not really on disinterested objectivity.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Wed Aug 26, 2020 4:40 am

III- Oriental Residence and Scholarship: The Requirements of Lexicography and Imagination

Renan's views of the Oriental Semites belong, of course, less to the realm of popular prejudice and common anti-Semitism than they do to the realm of scientific Oriental philology. When we read Renan and Sacy, we readily observe the way cultural generalization had begun to acquire the armor of scientific statement and the ambience of corrective study. Like many academic specialties in their early phases, modern Orientalism held its subject matter, which it defined, in a viselike grip which it did almost everything in its power to sustain. Thus a knowing vocabulary developed, and its functions, as much as its style, located the Orient in a comparative framework, of the sort employed and manipulated by Renan. Such comparatism is rarely descriptive; most often, it is both evaluative and expository. Here is Renan comparing typically:

One sees that in all things the Semitic race appears to us to be an incomplete race, by virtue of its simplicity. This race -- if I dare use the analogy -- is to the Indo-European family what a pencil sketch is to painting; it lacks that variety, that amplitude, that abundance of life which is the condition of perfectibility. Like those individuals who possess so little fecundity that, after a gracious childhood, they attain only the most mediocre virility, the Semitic nations experienced their fullest flowering in their first age and have never been able to achieve true maturity. 61

Indo-Europeans are the touchstone here, just as they are when Renan says that the Semitic Oriental sensibility never reached the heights attained by the Indo-Germanic races.

Whether this comparative attitude is principally a scholarly necessity or whether it is disguised ethnocentric race prejudice, we cannot say with absolute certainty. What we can say is that the two work together, in support of each other. What Renan and Sacy tried to do was to reduce the Orient to a kind of human flatness, which exposed its characteristics easily to scrutiny and removed from it its complicating humanity. In Renan's case, the legitimacy of his efforts was provided by philology, whose ideological tenets encourage the reduction of a language to its roots; thereafter, the philologist finds it possible to connect those linguistics roots, as Renan and others did, to race, mind, character, and temperament at their roots. The affinity between Renan and Gobineau, for example, was acknowledged by Renan to be a common philological and Orientalist perspective; 62 in subsequent editions of the Histoire générale he incorporated some of Gobineau's work within his own. Thus did comparatism in the study of the Orient and Orientals come to be synonymous with the apparent ontological inequality of Occident and Orient.

The main traits of this inequality are worth recapitulating briefly. I have already referred to Schlegel's enthusiasm for India, and then his subsequent revulsion from it and of course from Islam. Many of the earliest Oriental amateurs began by welcoming the Orient as a salutary dérangement of their European habits of mind and spirit. The Orient was overvalued for its pantheism, its spirituality, its stability, its longevity, its primitivity, and so forth. Schelling, for example, saw in Oriental polytheism a preparation of the way for Judeo-Christian monotheism: Abraham was prefigured in Brahma. Yet almost without exception such overesteem was followed by a counter-response: the Orient suddenly appeared lamentably underhumanized, antidemocratic, backward, barbaric, and so forth. A swing of the pendulum in one direction caused an equal and opposite swing back: the Orient was undervalued. Orientalism as a profession grew out of these opposites, of compensations and corrections based on inequality, ideas nourished by and nourishing similar ideas in the culture at large.

Human crossing may have been a general rule from the time of the separation of sexes, and yet that other law may assert itself, viz., sterility between two human races, just as between two animal species of various kinds, in those rare cases when a European, condescending to see in a female of a savage tribe a mate, happens to choose a member of such mixed tribes. Darwin notes such a case in a Tasmanian tribe, whose women were suddenly struck with sterility, en masse, some time after the arrival among them of the European colonists. The great naturalist tried to explain this fact by change of diet, food, conditions, etc., but finally gave up the solution of the mystery. For the occultist it is a very evident one. "Crossing", as it is called, of Europeans with Tasmanian women -- i.e, the representatives of a race, whose progenitors were a "soulless" and mindless monster and a real human, though still as mindless a man -- brought on sterility. This, not alone as a consequence of a physiological law, but also as a decree of Karmic evolution in the question of further survival of the abnormal race...

It is a most suggestive fact -- to those concrete thinkers who demand a physical proof of Karma -- that the lowest races of men are now rapidly dying out; a phenomenon largely due to an extraordinary sterility setting in among the women, from the time that they were first approached by the Europeans. A process of decimation is taking place all over the globe, among those races, whose "time is up" -- among just those stocks, be it remarked, which esoteric philosophy regards as the senile representatives of lost archaic nations. It is inaccurate to maintain that the extinction of a lower race is invariably due to cruelties or abuses perpetrated by colonists. Change of diet, drunkenness, etc., etc., have done much; but those who rely on such data as offering an all-sufficient explanation of the crux, cannot meet the phalanx of facts now so closely arrayed. "Nothing", says even the materialist Lefevre, "can save those that have run their course .. It would be necessary to extend their destined cycle ... The peoples that have been spared ... Hawaiians or Maories, have been no less decimated than the tribes massacred or tainted by European intrusion." (“Philosophy,” p. 508.)

True; but is not the phenomenon here confirmed of the operation of CYCLIC LAW difficult to account for on materialist lines? Whence the “destined cycle” and the order here testified to? Why does this (Karmic) sterility attack and root out certain races at their “appointed hour”? The answer that it is due to a “mental disproportion” between the colonizing and aboriginal races is obviously evasive, since it does not explain the sudden “checks to fertility” which so frequently supervene. The dying out of the Hawaiians, for instance, is one of the most mysterious problems of the day. Ethnology will sooner or later have to recognize with Occultists that the true solution has to be sought for in a comprehension of the workings of Karma. As Lefevre remarks, “the time is drawing near when there will remain nothing but three great human types” (before the Sixth Root-Race dawns), the white (Aryan, Fifth Root-Race), the yellow, and the African negro — with their crossings (Atlanto-European divisions). Redskins, Eskimos, Papuans, Australians, Polynesians, etc., etc. — all are dying out. Those who realize that every Root-Race runs through a gamut of seven sub-races with seven branchlets, etc., will understand the “why.” The tide-wave of incarnating EGOS has rolled past them to harvest experience in more developed and less senile stocks; and their extinction is hence a Karmic necessity.

-- The Secret Doctrine: The Synthesis of Science, Religion, and Philosophy, by Helena P. Blavatsky


Indeed the very project of restriction and restructuring associated with Orientalism can be traced directly to the inequality by which the Orient's comparative poverty (or wealth) besought scholarly, scientific treatment of the kind to be found in disciplines like philology, biology, history, anthropology, philosophy, or economics.

And thus the actual profession of Orientalist enshrined this inequality and the special paradoxes it engendered. Most often an individual entered the profession as a way of reckoning with the Orient's claim on him; yet most often too his Orientalist training opened his eyes, so to speak, and what he was left with was a sort of debunking project, by which the Orient was reduced to considerably less than the eminence once seen in it. How else is one to explain the enormous labors represented by the work of William Muir (1819-1905 ), for example, or of Reinhart Dozy (1820-1883 ), and the impressive antipathy in that work to the Orient, Islam, and the Arabs? Characteristically, Renan was one of Dozy's supporters, just as in Dozy's four-volume Histoire des Mussulmans d'Espagne, jusqu à la conquête de l'Andalousie par les Almoravides (1861) there appear many of Renan's anti-Semitic strictures, compounded in 1864 by a volume arguing that the Jews' primitive God was not Jahweh but Baal, proof for which was to be found in Mecca, of all places. Muir's Life of Mahomet (1858-1861) and his The Caliphate, Its Rise, Decline and Fall (1891) are still considered reliable monuments of scholarship, yet his attitude towards his subject matter was fairly put by him when he said that "the sword of Muhammed, and the Kor'ān, are the most stubborn enemies of Civilisation, Liberty, and the Truth which the world has yet known."63 Many of the same notions are to be found in the work of Alfred Lyall, who was one of the authors cited approvingly by Cromer.

Even if the Orientalist does not explicitly judge his material as Dozy and Muir did, the principle of inequality exerts its influence nevertheless. It remains the professional Orientalist's job to piece together a portrait, a restored picture as it were, of the Orient or the Oriental; fragments, such as those unearthed by Sacy, supply the material, but the narrative shape, continuity, and figures are constructed by the scholar, for whom scholarship consists of circumventing the unruly (un-Occidental) nonhistory of the Orient with orderly chronicle, portraits, and plots. Caussin de Perceval's Essai sur l'histoire des Arabes avant l'Islamisme, pendant l'époque de Mahomet (three volumes, 1847-1848) is a wholly professional study, depending for its sources on documents made available internally to the field by other Orientalists (principally Sacy, of course) or documents -- like the texts of ibn-Khaldun, upon whom Caussin relied very heavily -- reposing in Orientalist libraries in Europe. Caussin's thesis is that the Arabs were made a people by Mohammed, Islam being essentially a political instrument, not by any means a spiritual one. What Caussin strives for is clarity amidst a huge mass of confusing detail. Thus what emerges out of the study of Islam is quite literally a one-dimensional portrait of Mohammed, who is made to appear at the end of the work (after his death has been described) in precise photographic detail.64 Neither a demon, nor a prototype of Cagliostro, Caussin's Mohammed is a man appropriated to a history of Islam (the fittest version of it) as an exclusively political movement, centralized by the innumerable citations that thrust him up and, in a sense, out of the text. Caussin's intention was to leave nothing unsaid about Mohammed; the Prophet is thereby seen in a cold light, stripped both of his immense religious force and of any residual powers to frighten Europeans. The point here is that as a figure for his own time and place Mohammed is effaced, in order for a very slight human miniature of him to be left standing.

A nonprofessional analogue to Caussin's Mohammed is Carlyle's, a Mohammed forced to serve a thesis totally overlooking the historical and cultural circumstances of the Prophet's own time and place. Although Carlyle quotes Sacy, his essay is clearly the product of someone arguing for some general ideas on sincerity, heroism, and prophethood. His attitude is salutary: Mohammed is no legend, no shameful sensualist, no laughable petty sorcerer who trained pigeons to pick peas out of his ear. Rather he is a man of real vision and self-conviction, albeit an author of a book, the Koran, that is "a wearisome confused jumble, crude, incondite; endless iterations, long-windedness, entanglement; most crude, incondite -- insupportable stupidity, in short."65 Not a paragon of lucidity and stylistic grace himself, Carlyle asserts these things as a way of rescuing Mohammed from the Benthamite standards that would have condemned both Mohammed and him together. Yet Mohammed is a hero, transplanted into Europe out of the same barbaric Orient found wanting by Lord Macaulay in his famous "Minute" of 1835, in which it was asserted that "our native subjects" have more to learn from us than we do from them.66

Both Caussin and Carlyle, in other words, show us that the Orient need not cause us undue anxiety, so unequal are Oriental to European achievements. The Orientalist and non-Orientalist perspectives coincide here. For within the comparative field that Orientalism became after the philological revolution of the early nineteenth century, and outside it, either in popular stereotypes or in the figures made of the Orient by philosophers like Carlyle and stereotypes like those of Macaulay, the Orient in itself was subordinated intellectually to the West. As material for study or reflection the Orient acquired all the marks of an inherent weakness. It became subject to the vagaries of miscellaneous theories that used it for illustration. Cardinal Newman, no great Orientalist, used Oriental Islam as the basis of lectures in 1853 justifying British intervention in the Crimean War.67 Cuvier found the Orient useful for his work Le Règne animal (1816). The Orient was usefully employed as conversation in the various salons of Paris.68 The list of references, borrowings, and transformations that overtook the Oriental idea is immense, but at bottom what the early Orientalist achieved, and what the non-Orientalist in the West exploited, was a reduced model of the Orient suitable for the prevailing, dominant culture and its theoretical (and hard after the theoretical, the practical) exigencies. Occasionally one comes across exceptions, or if not exceptions then interesting complications, to this unequal partnership between East and West. Karl Marx identified the notion of an Asiatic economic system in his 1853 analyses of British rule in India, and then put beside that immediately the human depredation introduced into this system by English colonial interference, rapacity, and outright cruelty. In article after article he returned with increasing conviction to the idea that even in destroying Asia, Britain was making possible there a real social revolution. Marx's style pushes us right up against the difficulty of reconciling our natural repugnance as fellow creatures to the sufferings of Orientals while their society is being violently transformed with the historical necessity of these transformations.

Now, sickening as it must be to human feeling to witness those myriads of industrious patriarchal and inoffensive social organizations disorganized and dissolved into their units, thrown into a sea of woes, and their individual members losing at the same time their ancient form of civilization and their hereditary means of subsistence, we must not forget that these idyllic village communities, inoffensive though they may appear, had always been the solid foundation of Oriental despotism, that they restrained the human mind within the smallest possible compass, making it the unresisting tool of superstition, enslaving it beneath the traditional rules, depriving it of all grandeur and historical energies ....

England, it is true, in causing a social revolution in Hindustan was actuated only by the vilest interests, and was stupid in her manner of enforcing them. But that is not the question. The question is, can mankind fulfil its destiny without a fundamental revolution in the social state of Asia? If not, whatever may have been the crimes of England she was the unconscious tool of history in bringing about that revolution.

Then, whatever bitterness the spectacle of the crumbling of an ancient world may have for our personal feelings, we have the right, in point of history, to exclaim with Goethe:


Sollte these Qual uns qualen
Da she unsere Lust vermehrt
Hat nicht Myriaden Seelen
Timurs Herrschaft aufgeziehrt?69
(Should this torture then torment us
Since it brings us greater pleasure?
Were not through the rule of Timur
Souls devoured without measure?)

[From Goethe’s “An Suleika”, Westöstlicher Diwan]


To Suleika

To kiss you with fragrance,
to increase your joys,
a thousand roses must
first go down in gluten when budding.

To own a vial
That keeps the smell forever,
Slender as your fingertips,
There needs a world;

A world of life instincts,
which, in their fullness,
foreshadowed Bulbul's loves,
soul-stimulating song.

Should that torment torment us,
As it increases our pleasure?
Has not Timur's rule
consumed myriad souls?

-- West-East Divan, by Johann Wolfgang Goethe


The quotation, which supports Marx's argument about torment producing pleasure, comes from the Westőstlicher Diwan and identifies the sources of Marx's conceptions about the Orient. These are Romantic and even messianic: as human material the Orient is less important than as an element in a Romantic redemptive project. Marx's economic analyses are perfectly fitted thus to a standard Orientalist undertaking, even though Marx's humanity, his sympathy for the misery of people, are clearly engaged. Yet in the end it is the Romantic Orientalist vision that wins out, as Marx's theoretical socio-economic views become submerged in this classically standard image:

England has to fulfill a double mission in India: one destructive, the other regenerating -- the annihilation of the Asiatic society, and the laying of the material foundations of Western society in Asia.70


The idea of regenerating a fundamentally lifeless Asia is a piece of pure Romantic Orientalism, of course, but coming from the same writer who could not easily forget the human suffering involved, the statement is puzzling. It requires us first to ask how Marx's moral equation of Asiatic loss with the British colonial rule he condemned gets skewed back towards the old inequality between East and West we have so far remarked. Second, it requires us to ask where the human sympathy has gone, into what realm of thought it has disappeared while the Orientalist vision takes its place.

We are immediately brought back to the realization that Orientalists, like many other early-nineteenth-century thinkers, conceive of humanity either in large collective terms or in abstract generalities. Orientalists are neither interested in nor capable of discussing individuals; instead artificial entities, perhaps with their roots in Herderian populism, predominate. There are Orientals, Asiatics, Semites, Muslims, Arabs, Jews, races, mentalities, nations, and the like, some of them the product of learned operations of the type found in Renan's work. Similarly, the age-old distinction between "Europe" and "Asia" or "Occident" and "Orient" hides beneath very wide labels every possible variety of human plurality, reducing it in the process to one or two terminal, collective abstractions. Marx is no exception. The collective Orient was easier for him to use in illustration of a theory than existential human identities. For between Orient and Occident, as if in a self-fulfilling proclamation, only the vast anonymous collectivity mattered, or existed. No other type of exchange, severely constrained though it may have been, was at hand.

That Marx was still able to sense some fellow feeling, to identify even a little with poor Asia, suggests that something happened before the labels took over, before he was dispatched to Goethe as a source of wisdom on the Orient. It is as if the individual mind (Marx's, in this case) could find a precollective, pre-official individuality in Asia -- find and give in to its pressures upon his emotions, feelings, senses -- only to give it up when he confronted a more formidable censor in the very vocabulary he found himself forced to employ. What that censor did was to stop and then chase away the sympathy, and this was accompanied by a lapidary definition: Those people, it said, don't suffer -- they are Orientals and hence have to be treated in other ways than the ones you've just been using. A wash of sentiment therefore disappeared as it encountered the unshakable definitions built up by Orientalist science, supported by "Oriental" lore (e.g., the Diwan) supposed to be appropriate for it. The vocabulary of emotion dissipated as it submitted to the lexicographical police action of Orientalist science and even Orientalist art. An experience was dislodged by a dictionary definition: one can almost see that happen in Marx's Indian essays, where what finally occurs is that something forces him to scurry back to Goethe, there to stand in his protective Orientalized Orient.

In part, of course, Marx was concerned with vindicating his own theses on socio-economic revolution; but in part also he seems to have had easy resource to a massed body of writing, both internally consolidated by Orientalism and put forward by it beyond the field, that controlled any statement made about the Orient. In Chapter One I tried to show how this control had had a general cultural history in Europe since antiquity; in this chapter my concern has been to show how in the nineteenth century a modern professional terminology and practice were created whose existence dominated discourse about the Orient, whether by Orientalists or non- Orientalists. Sacy and Renan were instances of the way Orientalism fashioned, respectively, a body of texts and a philologically rooted process by which the Orient took on a discursive identity that made it unequal with the West. In using Marx as the case by which a non-Orientalist's human engagements were first dissolved, then usurped by Orientalist generalizations, we find ourselves having to consider the process of lexicographical and institutional consolidation peculiar to Orientalism.
What was this operation, by which whenever you discussed the Orient a formidable mechanism of omni-competent definitions would present itself as the only one having suitable validity for your discussion? And since we must also show how this mechanism operated specifically (and effectively) upon personal human experiences that otherwise contradicted it, we must also show where they went and what forms they took, while they lasted.

All this is a very difficult and complex operation to describe, at least as difficult and complex as the way any growing discipline crowds out its competitors and acquires authority for its traditions, methods, and institutions, as well as general cultural legitimacy for its statements, personalities, and agencies. But we can simplify a great deal of the sheer narrative complexity of the operation by specifying the kinds of experiences that Orientalism typically employed for its own ends and represented for its wider-than-professional audience. In essence these experiences continue the ones I described as having taken place in Sacy and Renan. But whereas those two scholars represent a wholly bookish Orientalism, since neither claimed any particular expertise with the Orient in situ, there is another tradition that claimed its legitimacy from the peculiarly compelling fact of residence in, actual existential contact with, the Orient. Anquetil, Jones, the Napoleonic expedition define the tradition's earliest contours, of course, and these will thereafter retain an unshakable influence on all Orientalist residents. These contours are the ones of European power: to reside in the Orient is to live the privileged life, not of an ordinary citizen, but of a representative European whose empire (French or British) contains the Orient in its military, economic, and above all, cultural arms. Oriental residence, and its scholarly fruits, are thereby fed into the bookish tradition of the textual attitudes we found in Renan and Sacy: together the two experiences will constitute a formidable library against which no one, not even Marx, can rebel and which no one can avoid.

Residence in the Orient involves personal experience and personal testimony to a certain extent. Contributions to the library of Orientalism and to its consolidation depend on how experience and testimony get converted from a purely personal document into the enabling codes of Orientalist science. In other words, within a text there has to take place a metamorphosis from personal to official statement; the record of Oriental residence and experience by a European must shed, or at least minimize, its purely autobiographical and indulgent descriptions in favor of descriptions on which Orientalism in general and later Orientalists in particular can draw, build, and base further scientific observation and description. So one of the things we can watch for is a more explicit conversion than in Marx of personal sentiments about the Orient into official Orientalist statements.

Now the situation is enriched and complicated by the fact that during the entire nineteenth century the Orient, and especially the Near Orient, was a favorite place for Europeans to travel in and write about. Moreover, there developed a fairly large body of Oriental-style European literature very frequently based on personal experiences in the Orient. Flaubert comes to mind immediately as one prominent source of such literature; Disraeli, Mark Twain, and Kinglake are three other obvious examples. But what is of interest is the difference between writing that is converted from personal to professional Orientalism, and the second type, also based on residence and personal testimony, which remains "literature" and not science: it is this difference that I now want to explore.

To be a European in the Orient always involves being a consciousness set apart from, and unequal with, its surroundings. But the main thing to note is the intention of this consciousness: What is it in the Orient for? Why does it set itself there even if, as is the case with writers like Scott, Hugo, and Goethe, it travels to the Orient for a very concrete sort of experience without actually leaving Europe? A small number of intentional categories proposed themselves schematically. One: the writer who intends to use his residence for the specific task of providing professional Orientalism with scientific material, who considers his residence a form of scientific observation. Two: the writer who intends the same purpose but is less willing to sacrifice the eccentricity and style of his individual consciousness to impersonal Orientalist definitions. These latter do appear in his work, but they are disentangled from the personal vagaries of style only with difficulty. Three: the writer for whom a real or metaphorical trip to the Orient is the fulfillment of some deeply felt and urgent project. His text therefore is built on a personal aesthetic, fed and informed by the project. In categories two and three there is considerably more space than in one for the play of a personal-or at least non-Orientalist-consciousness; if we take Edward William Lane's Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians as the preeminent example of category one, Burton's Pilgrimage to al-Madinah and Meccah as belonging to category two, and Nerval's Voyage en Orient as representing category three, the relative spaces left in the text for the exercise and display of authorial presence will be clear.

Despite their differences, however, these three categories are not so separate from each other as one would imagine. Nor does each category contain "pure" representative types. For example, works in all three categories rely upon the sheer egoistic powers of the European consciousness at their center. In all cases the Orient is for the European observer, and what is more, in the category that contains Lane's Egyptians, the Orientalist ego is very much in evidence, however much his style tries for impartial impersonality. Moreover, certain motifs recur consistently in all three types. The Orient as a place of pilgrimage is one; so too is the vision of Orient as spectacle, or tableau vivant. Every work on the Orient in these categories tries to characterize the place, of course, but what is of greater interest is the extent to which the work's internal structure is in some measure synonymous with a comprehensive interpretation (or an attempt at it) of the Orient. Most of the time, not surprisingly, this interpretation is a form of Romantic restructuring of the Orient, a re-vision of it, which restores it redemptively to the present. Every interpretation, every structure created for the Orient, then, is a reinterpretation, a rebuilding of it.

Having said that, we return directly to differences between the categories. Lane's book on the Egyptians was influential, it was frequently read and cited (by Flaubert among others), and it established its author's reputation as an eminent figure in Orientalist scholarship. In other words, Lane's authority was gained, not by virtue simply of what he said, but by virtue of how what he said could be adapted to Orientalism. He is quoted as a source of knowledge about Egypt or Arabia, whereas Burton or Flaubert were and are read for what they tell us about Burton and Flaubert over and above their knowledge of the Orient. The author-function in Lane's Modern Egyptians is less strong than in the other categories because his work was disseminated into the profession, consolidated by it, institutionalized with it. The authorial identity in a work of professional discipline such as his is subordinated to the demands of the field, as well as to the demands of the subject matter. But this is not done simply, or without raising problems.

Lane's classic, An Account of the Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians (1836), was the self-conscious result of a series of works and of two periods of residence in Egypt (1825-1828 and 1833-1835). One uses the phrase "self-conscious" with some emphasis here because the impression Lane wished to give was that his study was a work of immediate and direct, unadorned and neutral, description, whereas in fact it was the product of considerable editing (the work he wrote was not the one he finally published) and also of a considerable variety of quite special efforts. Nothing in his birth or background seemed to destine him for the Orient, except his methodical studiousness and his capacity for classical studies and for mathematics, which somewhat explain the apparent internal neatness of his book. His preface offers a series of interesting clues about what it was that he did for the book. He went to Egypt originally to study Arabic. Then, after making some notes about modern Egypt, he was encouraged to produce a systematic work on the country and its inhabitants by a committee of the Society for the Diffusion of Useful Knowledge. From being a random set of observations the work was changed into a document of useful knowledge, knowledge arranged for and readily accessible to anyone wishing to know the essentials of a foreign society. The preface makes it clear that such knowledge must somehow dispose of pre-existing knowledge, as well as claim for itself a particularly effective character: here Lane is the subtle polemicist. He must show initially that he did what others before him either could not or did not do, and then, that he was able to acquire information both authentic and perfectly correct. And thus his peculiar authority begins to emerge.

While Lane dallies in his preface with a Dr. Russell's "account of the people of Aleppo" (a forgotten work), it is obvious that the Description de I'Égypte is his main antecedent competition. But that work, confined by Lane to a long footnote, is mentioned in contemptuous quotation marks as "the great French work" on Egypt.

That work was at once too philosophically general and too careless, Lane says; and Jacob Burckhardt's famous study was merely a collection of proverbial Egyptian wisdom, "bad tests of the morality of a people." Unlike the French and Burckhardt, Lane was able to submerge himself amongst the natives, to live as they did, to conform to their habits, and "to escape exciting, in strangers, any suspicion of ...being a person who had no right to intrude among them." Lest that imply Lane's having lost his objectivity, he goes on to say that he conformed only to the words (his italics) of the Koran, and that he was always aware of his difference from an essentially alien culture.71 Thus while one portion of Lane's identity floats easily in the unsuspecting Muslim sea, a submerged part retains its secret European power, to comment on, acquire, possess everything around it.

The Orientalist can imitate the Orient without the opposite being true. What he says about the Orient is therefore to be understood as description obtained in a one-way exchange: as they spoke and behaved, he observed and wrote down. His power was to have existed amongst them as a native speaker, as it were, and also as a secret writer. And what he wrote was intended as useful knowledge, not for them, but for Europe and its various disseminative institutions. For that is one thing that Lane's prose never lets us forget: that ego, the first-person pronoun moving through Egyptian customs, rituals, festivals, infancy, adulthood, and burial rites, is in reality both an Oriental masquerade and an Orientalist device for capturing and conveying valuable, otherwise inaccessible information. As narrator, Lane is both exhibit and exhibitor, winning two confidences at once, displaying two appetites for experience: the Oriental one for engaging companionship (or so it seems) and the Western one for authoritative, useful knowledge.

Nothing illustrates this better than the last tripartite episode in the preface. Lane there describes his principal informant and friend, Sheikh Ahmed, as companion and as curiosity. Together the two pretend that Lane is a Muslim; yet only after Ahmed conquers his fear, inspired by Lane's audacious mimicry, can he go through the motions of praying by his side in a mosque. This final achievement is preceded by two scenes in which Ahmed is portrayed as a bizarre glass-eater and a polygamist. 1n all three portions of the Sheikh Ahmed episode the distance between the Muslim and Lane increases, even as in the action itself it decreases. As mediator and translator, so to speak, of Muslim behavior, Lane ironically enters the Muslim pattern only far enough to be able to describe it in a sedate English prose. His identity as counterfeit believer and privileged European is the very essence of bad faith, for the latter undercuts the former in no uncertain way. Thus what seems to be factual reporting of what one rather peculiar Muslim does is made to appear by Lane as the candidly exposed center of all Muslim faith. No mind is given by Lane to the betrayal of his friendship with Ahmed or with the others who provide him with information. What matters is that the report seem accurate, general, and dispassionate, that the English reader be convinced that Lane was never infected with heresy or apostasy, and finally, that Lane's text cancel the human content of its subject matter in favor of its scientific validity.

It is for all these ends that the book is organized, not simply as the narrative of Lane's residence in Egypt but as narrative structure overwhelmed by Orientalist restructuring and detail. This, I think, is the central achievement of Lane's work. In outline and shape Modern Egyptians follows the routine of an eighteenth-century novel, say one by Fielding. The book opens with an account of country and setting, followed by chapters on 'Personal Characteristics" and "Infancy and Early Education." Twenty-five chapters on such things as festivals, laws, character, industry, magic, and domestic life precede the last section, "Death and Funeral Rites." On the face of it, Lane's argument is chronological and developmental. He writes about himself as the observer of scenes that follow the major divisions in the human lifetime: his model is the narrative pattern, as it is in Tom Jones with the hero's birth, adventures, marriage, and implied death. Only in Lane's text the narrative voice is ageless; his subject, however, the modern Egyptian, goes through the individual life-cycle. This reversal, by which a solitary individual endows himself with timeless faculties and imposes on a society and people a personal life-span, is but the first of several operations regulating what might have been the mere narration of travels in foreign parts, turning an artless text into an encyclopedia of exotic display and a playground for Orientalist scrutiny.

Lane's control of his material is not only established through his dramatized double presence (as fake Muslim and genuine Westerner) and his manipulation of narrative voice and subject, but also through his use of detail. Each major section in each chapter is invariably introduced with some unsurprising general observation. For example, "it is generally observed that many of the most remarkable peculiarities in the manners, customs, and character of a nation are attributable to the physical peculiarities of the country."72 What follows confirms this easily-the Nile, Egypt's "remarkably salubrious" climate, the peasant's "precise" labor. Yet instead of this leading to the next episode in narrative order, the detail is added to, and consequently the narrative fulfillment expected on purely formal grounds is not given. In other words, although the gross outlines of Lane's text conform to the narrative and causal sequence of birth-life-death, the special detail introduced during the sequence itself foils narrative movement. From a general observation, to a delineation of some aspect of Egyptian character, to an account of Egyptian childhood, adolescence, maturity, and senescence, Lane is always there with great detail to prevent smooth transitions. Shortly after we hear about Egypt's salubrious climate, for instance, we are informed that few Egyptians live beyond a few years, because of fatal illness, the absence of medical aid, and oppressive summer weather. Thereafter we are told that the heat "excites the Egyptian [an unqualified generalization] to intemperance in sensual enjoyments," and soon are bogged down in descriptions, complete with charts and line drawings, of Cairene architecture, decoration, fountains, and locks. When a narrative strain re-emerges, it is clearly only as a formality.

What prevents narrative order, at the very same time that narrative order is the dominating fiction of Lane's text, is sheer, overpowering, monumental description. Lane's objective is to make Egypt and the Egyptians totally visible, to keep nothing hidden from his reader, to deliver the Egyptians without depth, in swollen detail. As rapporteur his propensity is for sadomasochistic colossal tidbits: the self-multilation of dervishes, the cruelty of judges, the blending of religion with licentiousness among Muslims, the excess of libidinous passions, and so on. Yet no matter how odd and perverse the event and how lost we become in its dizzying detail, Lane is ubiquitous, his job being to reassemble the pieces and enable us to move on, albeit jerkily. To a certain extent he does this by just being a European who can discursively control the passions and excitements to which the Muslims are unhappily subject. But to an even greater extent, Lane's capacity to rein in his profuse subject matter with an unyielding bridle of discipline and detachment depends on his cold distance from Egyptian life and Egyptian productivity.

The main symbolic moment occurs at the beginning of chapter 6, "Domestic Life-Continued." By now Lane has adopted the narrative convention of taking a walk through Egyptian life, and having reached the end of his tour of the public rooms and habits of an Egyptian household (the social and spatial worlds are mixed together by him), he begins to discuss the intimate side of home life. Immediately, he "must give some account of marriage and the marriage-ceremonies." As usual, the account begins with a general observation: to abstain from marriage "when a man has attained a sufficient age, and when there is no just impediment, is esteemed by the Egyptians improper, and even disreputable." Without transition this observation is applied by Lane to himself, and he is found guilty. For one long paragraph he then recounts the pressures placed on him to get married, which he unflinchingly refuses. Finally, after a native friend even offers to arrange a mariage de convenance, also refused by Lane, the whole sequence is abruptly terminated with a period and a dash.63 He resumes his general discussion with another general observation.

Not only do we have here a typical Lane-esque interruption of the main narrative with untidy detail, we have also a firm and literal disengagement of the author from the productive processes of Oriental society. The mini-narrative of his refusal to join the society he describes concludes with a dramatic hiatus: his story cannot continue, he seems to be saying, so long as he does not enter the intimacy of domestic life, and so he drops from sight as a candidate for it. He literally abolishes himself as a human subject by refusing to marry into human society. Thus he preserves his authoritative identity as a mock participant and bolsters the objectivity of his narrative. If we already knew that Lane was a non-Muslim, we now know too that in order for him to become an Orientalist-instead of an Oriental-he had to deny himself the sensual enjoyments of domestic life. Moreover, he had also to avoid dating himself by entering the human life-cycle. Only in this negative way could he retain his timeless authority as observer.

Lane's choice was between living without "inconvenience and discomfort" and accomplishing his study of the modern Egyptians. The result of his choice is plainly to have made possible his definition of the Egyptians, since had he become one of them, his perspective would no longer have been antiseptically and asexually lexicographical. In two important and urgent ways, therefore, Lane gains scholarly credibility and legitimacy. First, by interfering with the ordinary narrative course of human life: this is the function of his colossal detail, in which the observing intelligence of a foreigner can introduce and then piece together massive information. The Egyptians are disemboweled for exposition, so to speak, then put together admonishingly by Lane. Second, by disengaging from the generation of Egyptian-Oriental life: this is the function of his subduing his animal appetite in the interest of disseminating information, not in and for Egypt, but in and for European learning at large. To have achieved both the imposition of a scholarly will upon an untidy reality and an intentional shift away from the place of his residence to the scene of his scholarly reputation is the source of his great fame in the annals of Orientalism. Useful knowledge such as his could only have been obtained, formulated, and diffused by such denials.

Lane's two other major works, his never-completed Arabic lexicon and his uninspired translation of the Arabian Nights, consolidated the system of knowledge inaugurated by Modern Egyptians. In both of his later works his individuality has disappeared entirely as a creative presence, as of course has the very idea of a narrative work. Lane the man appears only in the official persona of annotator and retranslator (the Nights) and impersonal lexicographer. From being an author contemporary with his subject matter, Lane became as Orientalist scholar of classical Arabic and classical Islamits survivor. But it is the form of that survival which is of interest. For Lane's legacy as a scholar mattered not to the Orient, of course, but to the institutions and agencies of his European society. And these were either academic-the official Orientalist societies, institutions, and agencies-or they were extra-academic in very particular ways, figuring in the work of later Europeans resident in the Orient.

If we read Lane's Modern Egyptians, not as a source of Oriental lore, but as a work directed towards the growing organization of academic Orientalism, we will find it illuminating. The subordination of genetic ego to scholarly authority in Lane corresponds exactly to the increased specialization and institutionalization of knowledge about the Orient represented by the various Oriental societies. The Royal Asiatic Society was founded a decade before Lane's book appeared, but its committee of correspondence-whose "objects were to receive intelligence and inquiries relating to the arts, sciences, literature, history and antiquities" of the Orient74--- the structural recipient of Lane's fund of information, processed and formulated as it was. As for the diffusion of such work as Lane's, there were not only the various societies of useful knowledge but also, in an age when the original Orientalist program of aiding commerce and trade with the Orient had become exhausted, the specialized learned societies whose products were works displaying the potential (if not actual) values of disinterested scholarship. Thus, a program of the Societe asiatique states:

To compose or to print grammars, dictionaries, and other elementary books recognized as useful or indispensable for the study of those languages taught by appointed professors [of Oriental languages]; by subscriptions or by other means to contribute to the publication of the same kind of work undertaken in France or abroad; to acquire manuscripts, or to copy either completely or in part those that are to be found in Europe, to translate or to make extracts from them, to multiply their number by reproducing them either by engraving or by lithography; to make it possible for the authors of useful works on geography, history, the arts, and the sciences to acquire the means for the public to enjoy the fruits of their nocturnal labors; to draw the attention of the public, by means of a periodic collection devoted to Asiatic literature, to the scientific, literary, or poetic productions of the Orient and those of the same sort that regularly are produced in Europe, to those facts about the Orient that could be relevant to Europe, to those discoveries and works of all kinds of which the Oriental peoples could become the subject: these are the objectives proposed for and by the Societe asiatique.

Orientalism organized itself systematically as the acquisition of Oriental material and its regulated dissemination as a form of specialized knowledge. One copied and printed works of grammar, one acquired original texts, one multiplied their number and diffused them widely, even dispensed knowledge in periodic form. It was into and for this system that Lane wrote his work, and sacrificed his ego. The mode in which his work persisted in the archives of Orientalism was provided for also. There was to be a "museum," Sacy said,

a vast depot of objects of all kinds, of drawings, of original books, maps, accounts of voyages, all offered to those who wish to give themselves to the study of [the Orient]; in such a way that each of these students would be able to feel himself transported as if by enchantment into the midst of, say, a Mongolian tribe or of the Chinese race, whichever he might have made the object of his studies.... It is possible to say ...that after the publication of elementary books on ...the Oriental languages, nothing is more important than to lay the cornerstone of this museum, which I consider a living commentary upon and interpretation [truchement] of the dictionaries.75

Truchement derives nicely from the Arabic turjaman, meaning "interpreter," "intermediary," or "spokesman." On the one hand, Orientalism acquired the Orient as literally and as widely as possible; on the other, it domesticated this knowledge to the West, filtering it through regulatory codes, classifications, specimen cases, periodical reviews, dictionaries, grammars, commentaries, editions, translations, all of which together formed a simulacrum of the Orient and reproduced it materially in the West, for the West. The Orient, in short, would be converted from the personal, sometimes garbled testimony of intrepid voyagers and residents into impersonal definition by a whole array of scientific workers. It would be converted from the consecutive experience of individual research into a sort of imaginary museum without walls, where everything gathered from the huge distances and varieties of Oriental culture became categorically Oriental. It would be reconverted, restructured from the bundle of fragments brought back piecemeal by explorers, expeditions, commissions, armies, and merchants into lexicographical, bibliographical, departmentalized, and textualized Orientalist sense. By the middle of the nineteenth century the Orient had become, as Disraeli said, a career, one in which one could remake and restore not only the Orient but also oneself.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Wed Aug 26, 2020 4:42 am

Part 1 of 2

IV- Pilgrims and Pilgrimages, British and French

Every European traveler or resident in the Orient has had to protect himself from its unsettling influences. Someone like Lane ultimately rescheduled and resituated the Orient when he came to write about it. The eccentricities of Oriental life, with its odd calendars, its exotic spatial configurations, its hopelessly strange languages, its seemingly perverse morality, were reduced considerably when they appeared as a series of detailed items presented in a normative European prose style. It is correct to say that in Orientalizing the Orient, Lane not only defined but edited it; he excised from it what, in addition to his own human sympathies, might have ruffled the European sensibility. In most cases, the Orient seemed to have offended sexual propriety; everything about the Orient-or at least Lane's Orient-in-Egypt-exuded dangerous sex, threatened hygiene and domestic seemliness with an excessive "freedom of intercourse," as Lane put it more irrepressibly than usual.

But there were other sorts of threats than sex. All of them wore away the European discreteness and rationality of time, space, and personal identity. In the Orient one suddenly confronted unimaginable antiquity, inhuman beauty, boundless distance. These could be put to use more innocently, as it were, if they were thought and written about, not directly experienced. In Byron's "Giaour," in the Westöstlicher Diwan, in Hugo's Orientales, the Orient is a form of release, a place of original opportunity, whose keynote was struck in Goethe's "Hegire"

Nord and West Siid zersplittern,
Throne bersten, Reiche zittern,
Fluchte du, in reinen Osten
Patriarchenluft zu kosten!
(North, West, and South disintegrate,
Thrones burst, empires tremble.
Fly away, and in the pure East
Taste the Patriarchs' air.)


One always returned to the Orient "Dort, im Reinen and in Rechten/Will ich menschlichen Geschlechten/In des Ursprungs Tiefe dringen" (There in purity and righteousness will I go back to the profound origins of the human race) seeing it as completion and confirmation of everything one had imagined:

Gottes ist der Orient!
Gottes ist der Okzident!
Nord and sudliches Gelande
Ruht im Frieden seiner Hände.76
God is the Orient!
God is the Occident!
Northern and southern lands
Repose in the peace of His hands.)


The Orient, with its poetry, its atmosphere, its possibilities, was represented by poets like Hafiz-unbegrenzt, boundless, Goethe said, older and younger than we Europeans. And for Hugo, in "Cri de guerre du mufti" and "La Douleur du pacha"77 the fierceness and the inordinate melancholy of Orientals was mediated, not by actual fear for life or disoriented lostness, but by Volney and George Sale, Whose learned work translated barbarous splendor into usable information for the sublimely talented poet.

What Orientalists like Lane, Sacy, Renan, Volney, Jones (not to mention the Description de l'Égypte), and other pioneers made available, the literary crowd exploited. We must recall now our earlier discussion of the three types of work dealing with the Orient and based upon actual residence there. The rigorous exigencies of knowledge purged from Orientalist writing an authorial sensibility: hence Lane's self-excision, and hence also the first kind of work we enumerated. As for types two and three, the self is there prominently, subservient to a voice whose job it is to dispense real knowledge (type two), or dominating and mediating everything we are told about the Orient (type three). Yet from one end of the nineteenth century to the other-after Napoleon, that is-the Orient was a place of pilgrimage, and every major work belonging to a genuine if not always to an academic Orientalism took its form, style, and intention from the idea of pilgrimage there. In this idea as in so many of the other forms of Orientalist writing we have been discussing, the Romantic idea of restorative reconstruction (natural supernaturalism) is the principal source.

Every pilgrim sees things his own way, but there are limits to what a pilgrimage can be for, to what shape and form it can take, to what truths it reveals. All pilgrimages to the Orient passed through, or had to pass through, the Biblical lands; most of them in fact were attempts either to relive or to liberate from the large, incredibly fecund Orient some portion of Judeo-Christian/Greco-Roman actuality. For these pilgrims the Orientalized Orient, the Orient of Orientalist scholars, was a gauntlet to be run, just as the Bible, the Crusades, Islam, Napoleon, and Alexander were redoubtable predecessors to be reckoned with. Not only does a learned Orient inhibit the pilgrim's musings and private fantasies; its very antecedence places barriers between the contemporary traveler and his writing, unless, as was the case with Nerval and Flaubert in their use of Lane, Orientalist work is severed from the library and caught in the aesthetic project. Another inhibition is that Orientalist writing is too circumscribed by the official requirements of Orientalist learning. A pilgrim like Chateaubriand claimed insolently that he undertook his voyages exclusively for his own sake: "j'allais chercher des images: voilà tout."78 Flaubert, Vigny, Nerval, Kinglake, Disraeli, Burton, all undertook their pilgrimages in order to dispel the mustiness of the preexisting Orientalist archive. Their writing was to be a fresh new repository of Oriental experience but, as we shall see, even this project usually (but not always) resolved itself into the reductionism of the Orientalistic. The reasons are complex, and they have very much to do with the nature of the pilgrim, his mode of writing, and the intentional form of his work.

What was the Orient for the individual traveler in the nineteenth century? Consider first the differences between an English speaker and a French speaker. For the former the Orient was India, of course, an actual British possession; to pass through the Near Orient was therefore to pass en route to a major colony. Already, then, the room available for imaginative play was limited by the realities of administration, territorial legality, and executive power. Scott, Kinglake, Disraeli, Warburton, Burton, and even George Eliot (in whose Daniel Deronda the Orient has plans made for it) are writers, like Lane himself and Jones before him, for whom the Orient was defined by material possession, by a material imagination, as it were. England had defeated Napoleon, evicted France: what the English mind surveyed was an imperial domain which by the 1880s had become an unbroken patch of British-held territory, from the Mediterranean to India. To write about Egypt, Syria, or Turkey, as much as traveling in them, was a matter of touring the realm of political will, political management, political definition. The territorial imperative was extremely compelling, even for so unrestrained a writer as Disraeli, whose Tancred is not merely an Oriental lark but an exercise in the astute political management of actual forces on actual territories.

In contrast, the French pilgrim was imbued with a sense of acute loss in the Orient. He came there to a place in which France, unlike Britain, had no sovereign presence. The Mediterranean echoed with the sounds of French defeats, from the Crusades to Napoleon. What was to become known as "la mission civilisatrice" began in the nineteenth century as a political second best to Britain's presence. Consequently French pilgrims from Volney on planned and projected for, imagined, ruminated about places that were principally in their minds; they constructed schemes for a typically French, perhaps even a European, concert in the Orient, which of course they supposed would be orchestrated by them. Theirs was the Orient of memories, suggestive ruins, forgotten secrets, hidden correspondences, and an almost virtuosic style of being, an Orient whose highest literary forms would be found in Nerval and Flaubert, both of whose work was solidly fixed in an imaginative, unrealizable (except aesthetically) dimension.

This was also true to a certain extent of scholarly French travelers in the Orient. Most of them were interested in the Biblical past or in the Crusades, as Henri Bordeaux has argued in his Voyageurs d'Orient.79 To these names we must add (at Hassan al-Nouty's suggestion) the names of Oriental Semiticists, including Quatrembre; Saulcy, the explorer of the Dead Sea; Renan as Phoenician archaeologist; Judas, the student of Phoenician languages; Catafago and Defremery, who studied the Ansarians, Ismailis, and Seljuks; Clermont-Ganneau, who explored Judea; and the Marquis de Vogue, whose work centered on Palmyrian epigraphy. In addition there was the whole school of Egyptologists descended from Champollion and Mariette, a school that would later include Maspero and Legrain. As an index of the difference between British realities and French fantasies, it is worthwhile recalling the words in Cairo of the painter Ludovic Lepic, who commented sadly in 1884 (two years after the British occupation had begun): "L'Orient est mort au Caire." Only Renan, ever the realistic racist, condoned the British suppression of Arabi's nationalist rebellion, which, out of his greater wisdom, he said was a "disgrace to civilization."80

Unlike Volney and Napoleon, the nineteenth-century French pilgrims did not seek a scientific so much as an exotic yet especially attractive reality. This is obviously true of the literary pilgrims, beginning with Chateaubriand, who found in the Orient a locale sympathetic to their private myths, obsessions, and requirements. Here we notice how all the pilgrims, but especially the French ones, exploit the Orient in their work so as in some urgent way to justify their existential vocation. Only when there is some additional cognitive purpose in writing about the Orient does the outpouring of self seem more under control. Lamartine, for instance, writes about himself, and also about France as a power in the Orient; that second enterprise mutes and finally controls imperatives heaped upon his style by his soul, his memory, and his imagination. No pilgrim, French or English, could so ruthlessly dominate his self or his subject as Lane did. Even Burton and T. E. Lawrence, of whom the former fashioned a deliberately Muslim pilgrimage and the latter what he called a reverse pilgrimage away from Mecca, delivered masses of historical, political, and social Orientalism that were never as free of their egos as Lane's were of his. This is why Burton, Lawrence, and Charles Doughty occupy a middle position between Lane and Chateaubriand.

Chateaubriand's Itinéraire de Paris à Jérusalem, et de Jérusalem à Paris (1810-1811) records the details of a journey undertaken in 1805-1806, after he had traveled in North America. Its many hundreds of pages bear witness to its author's admission that "je parle eternellement de moi," so much so that Stendhal, no selfabnegating writer himself, could find Chateaubriand's failure as a knowledgeable traveler to be the result of his "stinking egotism." He brought a very heavy load of personal objectives and suppositions to the Orient, unloaded them there, and proceeded thereafter to push people, places, and ideas around in the Orient as if nothing could resist his imperious imagination. Chateaubriand came to the Orient as a constructed figure, not as a true self. For him Bonaparte was the last Crusader; he in turn was "the last Frenchman who left his country to travel in the Holy Land with the ideas, the goals, and the sentiments of a pilgrim of former times." But there were other reasons. Symmetry: having been to the New World and seen its monuments of nature, he needed to complete his circle of studies by visiting the Orient and its monuments of knowledge: as he had studied Roman and Celtic antiquity, all that was left for him was the ruins of Athens, Memphis, and Carthage. Self-completion: he needed to replenish his stock of images. Confirmation of the importance of the religious spirit: "religion is a kind of universal language understood by all men," and where better to observe it than there in the Orient, even in lands where a comparatively low religion like Islam held sway. Above all, the need to see things, not as they were, but as Chateaubriand supposed they were: the Koran was "le livre de Mahomet"; it contained "ni principe de civilisation, ni precepte qui puisse elever le caractere." "This book," he continued, more or less freely inventing as he went along, "preaches neither hatred of tyranny nor love of liberty."81

To so preciously constituted a figure as Chateaubriand, the Orient was a decrepit canvas awaiting his restorative efforts. The Oriental Arab was "civilized man fallen again into a savage state": no wonder, then, that as he watched Arabs trying to speak French, Chateaubriand felt like Robinson Crusoe thrilled by hearing his parrot speak for the first time. True, there were places like Bethlehem (whose etymological meaning Chateaubriand got-completely wrong) in which one found again some semblance of real - that is, European-civilization, but those were few and far between. Everywhere, one encountered Orientals, Arabs whose civilization, religion, and manners were so low, barbaric, and antithetical as to merit reconquest. The Crusades, he argued, were not aggression; they were a just Christian counterpart to Omar's arrival in Europe. Besides, he added, even if the Crusades in their modern or original form were aggression, the issue they raised transcended such questions of ordinary mortality:

The Crusades were not only about the deliverance of the Holy Sepulchre, but more about knowing which would win on the earth, a cult that was civilization's enemy, systematically favorable to ignorance [this was Islam, of course], to despotism, to slavery, or a cult that had caused to reawaken in modern people the genius of a sage antiquity, and had abolished base servitude?82

This is the first significant mention of an idea that will acquire an almost unbearable, next to mindless authority in European writing: the theme of Europe teaching the Orient the meaning of liberty, which is an idea that Chateaubriand and everyone after him believed that Orientals, and especially Muslims, knew nothing about.

Of liberty, they know nothing; of propriety, they have none: force is their God. When they go for long periods without seeing conquerors who do heavenly justice, they have the air of soldiers without a leader, citizens without legislators, and a family without a father.83

Already in 1810 we have a European talking like Cromer in 1910, arguing that Orientals require conquest, and finding it no paradox that a Western conquest of the Orient was not conquest after all, but liberty. Chateaubriand puts the whole idea in the Romantic redemptive terms of a Christian mission to revive a dead world, to quicken in it a sense of its own potential, one which only a European can discern underneath a lifeless and degenerate surface. For the traveler this means that he must use the Old Testament and the Gospels as his guide in Palestine;84 only in this way can the apparent degeneration of the modern Orient be gotten beyond. Yet Chateaubriand senses no irony in the fact that his tour and his vision will reveal nothing to him about the modern Oriental and his destiny.

What matters about the Orient is what it lets happen to Chateaubriand, what it allows his spirit to do, what it permits him to reveal about himself, his ideas, his expectations. The liberty that so concerns him is no more than his own release from the Orient's hostile wastes.

Where his release allows him to go is directly back into the realm of imagination and imaginative interpretation. Description of the Orient is obliterated by the designs and patterns foisted upon it by the imperial ego, which makes no secret of its powers. If in Lane's prose we watch the ego disappear so that the Orient may appear in all its realistic detail, in Chateaubriand the ego dissolves itself in the contemplation of wonders it creates, and then is reborn, stronger than ever, more able to savor its powers and enjoy its interpretations.

When one travels in Judea, at first a great ennui grips the heart; but when, passing from one solitary place to another, space stretches out without limits before you, slowly the ennui dissipates, and one feels a secret terror, which, far from depressing the soul, gives it courage and elevates one's native genius. Extraordinary things are disclosed from all parts of an earth worked over by miracles: the burning sun, the impetuous eagle, the sterile fig tree; all of poetry, all the scenes from Scripture are present there. Every name encloses a mystery; every grotto declares the future; every summit retains within it the accents of a prophet. God Himself has spoken from these shores: the arid torrents, the riven rocks, the open tombs attest to the prodigy; the desert still seems struck dumb with terror, and one would say that it has still not been able to break the silence since it heard the voice of the eternal.85

The process of thought in this passage is revealing. An experience of Pascalian terror does not merely reduce one's self-confidence, it miraculously stimulates it. The barren landscape stands forth like an illuminated text presenting itself to the scrutiny of a very strong, refortified ego. Chateaubriand has transcended the abject, if frightening, reality of the contemporary Orient so that he may stand in an original and creative relationship to it. By the end of the passage he is no longer a modern man but a visionary seer more or less contemporary with God; if the Judean desert has been silent since God spoke there, it is Chateaubriand who can hear the silence, understand its meaning, and-to his reader-make the desert speak again.

The great gifts of sympathetic intuition which had enabled Chateaubriand to represent and interpret North American mysteries in René and Atala, as well as Christianity in Le Génie du Christianisme, are aroused to even greater feats of interpretation during the Itinéraire. No longer is the author dealing with natural primitivity and romantic sentiment: here he is dealing with eternal creativity and divine originality themselves, for it is in the Biblical Orient that they were first deposited, and they have remained there in unmediated and latent form. Of course, they cannot be simply grasped; they must be aspired to and achieved by Chateaubriand. And it is this ambitious purpose that the Itinéraire is made to serve, just as in the text Chateaubriand's ego must be reconstructed radically enough to get the job done. Unlike Lane, Chateaubriand attempts to consume the Orient. He not only appropriates it, he represents and speaks for it, not in history but beyond history, in the timeless dimension of a completely healed world, where men and lands, God and men, are as one. In Jerusalem, therefore, at the center of his vision and at the ultimate end of his pilgrimage, he grants himself a sort of total reconciliation with the Orient, the Orient as Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Greek, Persian, Roman, and finally French. He is moved by the plight of the Jews, but he judges that they too serve to illuminate his general vision, and as a further benefit, they give the necessary poignance to his Christian vindictiveness. God, he says, has chosen a new people, and it is not the Jews.86

He makes some other concessions to terrestrial reality, however. If Jerusalem is booked into his itinerary as its final extraterrestrial goal, Egypt provides him with material for a political excursus. His ideas about Egypt supplement his pilgrimage nicely. The magnificent Nile Delta moves him to assert that

I found only the memories of my glorious country worthy of those magnificent plains; I saw the remains of monuments of a new civilization, brought to the banks of the Nile by the genius of France.87


But these ideas are put in a nostalgic mode because in Egypt Chateaubriand believes he can equate the absence of France with the absence of a free government ruling a happy people. Besides, after Jerusalem, Egypt appears to be only a kind of spiritual anticlimax. After political commentary on its sorry state, Chateaubriand asks himself the routine question about "difference" as a result of historical development: how can this degenerate stupid mob of "Musulmans" have come to inhabit the same land whose vastly different owners so impressed Herodotus and Diodorus?

This is a fitting valedictory to Egypt, which he leaves for Tunis, Carthaginian ruins, and finally, home. Yet he does one last thing of note in Egypt: unable to do more than look at the Pyramids from a distance, he takes the trouble to send an emissary there, to have him inscribe his (Chateaubriand's) name on the stone, adding for our benefit, "one has to fulfill all the little obligations of a pious traveler." We would not ordinarily give much more than amused attention to this charming bit of touristic banality. As a preparation, however, for the very last page of the Itinéraire, it appears more important than at first glance. Reflecting on his twenty-year project to study "tous les hasards et tous les chagrins" as an exile, Chateaubriand notes elegiacally how every one of his books has been in fact a kind of prolongation of his existence. A man with neither a home nor the possibility of acquiring one, he finds himself now well past his youth. If heaven accords him eternal rest, he says, he promises to dedicate himself in silence to erecting a "monument a ma patrie." What he is left with on earth, however, is his writing, which, if his name will live, has been enough, and if it will not live, has been too much.88

These closing lines send us back to Chateaubriand's interest in getting his name inscribed on the Pyramids. We will have understood that his egoistic Oriental memoirs supply us with a constantly demonstrated, an indefatigably performed experience of self. Writing was an act of life for Chateaubriand, for whom nothing, not even a distant piece of stone, must remain scriptively untouched by him if he was to stay alive. If the order of Lane's narrative was to be violated by scientific authority and enormous detail, then Chateaubriand's was to be transformed into the asserted will of an egoistic, highly volatile individual. Whereas Lane would sacrifice his ego to the Orientalist canon, Chateaubriand would make everything he said about the Orient wholly dependent on his ego. Yet neither writer could conceive of his posterity as continuing on fruitfully after him. Lane entered the impersonality of a technical discipline: his work would be used, but not as a human document. Chateaubriand, on the other hand, saw that his writing, like the token inscription of his name on a Pyramid, would signify his self; if not, if he had not succeeded in prolonging his life by writing, it would be merely excessive, superfluous.

Even if all travelers to the Orient after Chateaubriand and Lane have taken their work into account (in some cases, even to the extent of copying from them verbatim), their legacy embodies the fate of Orientalism and the options to which it was limited. Either one wrote science like Lane or personal utterance like Chateaubriand. The problems with the former were its impersonal Western confidence that descriptions of general, collective phenomena were possible, and its tendency to make realities not so much out of the Orient as out of its own observations. The problem with personal utterance was that it inevitably retreated into a position equating the Orient with private fantasy, even if that fantasy was of a very high order indeed, aesthetically speaking. In both cases, of course, Orientalism enjoyed a powerful influence on how the Orient was described and characterized. But what that influence always prevented, even until today, was some sense of the Orient that was neither impossibly general nor imperturbably private. To look into Orientalism for a lively sense of an Oriental's human or even social reality-as a contemporary inhabitant of the modern world-is to look in vain.

The influence of the two options I have described, Lane's and Chateaubriand's, British and French, is a great deal of the reason for this omission. The growth of knowledge, particularly specialized knowledge, is a very slow process. Far from being merely additive or cumulative, the growth of knowledge is a process of selective accumulation, displacement, deletion, rearrangement, and insistence within what has been called a research consensus. The legitimacy of such knowledge as Orientalism was during the nineteenth century stemmed not from religious authority, as had been the case before the Enlightenment, but from what we can call the restorative citation of antecedent authority. Beginning with Sacy, the learned Orientalist's attitude was that of a scientist who surveyed a series of textual fragments, which he thereafter edited and arranged as a restorer of old sketches might put a series of them together for the cumulative picture they implicitly represent. Consequently, amongst themselves Orientalists treat each other's work in the same citationary way. Burton, for example, would deal with the Arabian Nights or with Egypt indirectly, through Lane's work, by citing his predecessor, challenging him even though he was granting him very great authority. Nerval's own voyage to the Orient was by way of Lamartine's, and the latter's by way of Chateaubriand. In short, as a form of growing knowledge Orientalism resorted mainly to citations of predecessor scholars in the field for its nutriment. Even when new materials came his way, the Orientalist judged them by borrowing from predecessors (as scholars so often do) their perspectives, ideologies, and guiding theses. In a fairly strict way, then, Orientalists after Sacy and Lane rewrote Sacy and Lane; after Chateaubriand, pilgrims rewrote him. From these complex rewritings the actualities of the modern Orient were systematically excluded, especially when gifted pilgrims like Nerval and Flaubert preferred Lane's descriptions to what their eyes and minds showed them immediately.

In the system of knowledge about the Orient, the Orient is less a place than a topos, a set of references, a congeries of characteristics, that seems to have its origin in a quotation, or a fragment of a text, or a citation from someone's work on the Orient or some bit of previous imagining, or an amalgam of all these. Direct observation or circumstantial description of the Orient are the fictions presented by writing on the Orient, yet invariably these are totally secondary to systematic tasks of another sort. In Lamartine, Nerval, and Flaubert, the Orient is a re-presentation of canonical material guided by an aesthetic and executive will capable of producing interest in the reader. Yet in all three writers, Orientalism or some aspect of it is asserted, even though, as I said earlier, the narrative consciousness is given a very large role to play. What we shall see is that for all its eccentric individuality, this narrative consciousness will end up by being aware, like Bouvard and Pecuchet, that pilgrimage is after all a form of copying.

When he began his trip to the Orient in 1833, Lamartine did so, he said, as something he had always dreamed about: "un voyage en Orient [etait] comme un grand acte de ma vie interieure." He is a bundle of predispositions, sympathies, biases: he hates the Romans and Carthage, and loves Jews, Egyptians, and Hindus, whose Dante he claims he will become. Armed with a formal verse "Adieu" to France, in which he lists everything that he plans to do in the Orient, he embarks for the East. At first everything he encounters either confirms his poetic predictions or realizes his propensity for analogy. Lady Hester Stanhope is the Circe of the desert; the Orient is the "patrie de mon imagination"; the Arabs are a primitive people; Biblical poetry is engraved on the land of Lebanon; the Orient testifies to the attractive largeness of Asia and to Greece's comparative smallness. Soon after he reaches Palestine, however, he becomes the incorrigible maker of an imaginary Orient.

He alleges that the plains of Canaan appear to best advantage in the works of Poussin and Lorrain. From being a "translation," as he called it earlier, his voyage is now turned into a prayer, which exercises his memory, soul, and heart more than it does his eyes, mind, or spirit.89

This candid announcement completely unlooses Lamartine's analogic and reconstructive (and undisciplined) zeal. Christianity is a religion of imagination and recollection, and since Lamartine considers that he typifies the pious believer, he indulges himself accordingly. A catalogue of his tendentious "observations" would be interminable: a woman he sees reminds him of Haidee in Don Juan; the relationship between Jesus and Palestine is like that between Rousseau and Geneva; the actual river Jordan is less important than the "mysteries" it gives rise to in one's soul; Orientals, and Muslims in particular, are lazy, their politics are capricious, passionate, and futureless; another woman reminds him of a passage in Atala; neither Tasso nor Chateaubriand (whose antecedent travels seem often to harass Lamartine's otherwise heedless egoism) got the Holy Land right-and on and on. His pages on Arabic poetry, about which he discourses with supreme confidence, betray no discomfort at his total ignorance of the language. All that matters to him is that his travels in the Orient reveal to him how the Orient is "la terre des cultes, des prodiges," and that he is its appointed poet in the West. With no trace of self-irony he announces:

This Arab land is the land of prodigies; everything sprouts there, and every credulous or fanatical man can become a prophet there in his turn.90

He has become a prophet merely by the fact of residence in the Orient.

By the end of his narrative Lamartine has achieved the purpose of his pilgrimage to the Holy Sepulchre, that beginning and end point of all time and space. He has internalized reality enough to want to retreat from it back into pure contemplation, solitude, philosophy, and poetry.91

Rising above the merely geographical Orient, he is transformed into a latter day Chateaubriand, surveying the East as if it were a personal (or at the very least a French) province ready to be disposed of by European powers. From being a traveler and pilgrim in real time and space, Lamartine has become a transpersonal ego identifying itself in power and consciousness with the whole of Europe. What he sees before him is the Orient in the process of its inevitable future dismemberment, being taken over and consecrated by European suzerainty. Thus in Lamartine's climactic vision the Orient is reborn as European right-to-power over it:

This sort of suzerainty thus defined, and consecrated as a European right, will consist principally in the right to occupy one or another territory, as well as the coasts, in order to found there either free cities, or European colonies, or commercial ports of call ....

Nor does Lamartine stop at this. He climbs still higher to the point where the Orient, what he has just seen and where he has just been, is reduced to "nations without territory, patrie, rights, laws or security ...waiting anxiously for the shelter" of European occupation.92

In all the visions of the Orient fabricated by Orientalism there is no recapitulation, literally, as entire as this one. For Lamartine a pilgrimage to the Orient has involved not only the penetration of the Orient by an imperious consciousness but also the virtual elimination of that consciousness as a result of its accession to a kind of impersonal and continental control over the Orient. The Orient's actual identity is withered away into a set of consecutive fragments, Lamartine's recollective observations, which are later to be gathered up and brought forth as a restated Napoleonic dream of world hegemony. Whereas Lane's human identity disappeared into the scientific grid of his Egyptian classifications, Lamartine's consciousness transgresses its normal bounds completely. In so doing, it repeats Chateaubriand's journey and his visions only to move on beyond them, into the sphere of the Shelleyan and Napoleonic abstract, by which worlds and populations are moved about like so many cards on a table. What remains of the Orient in Lamartine's prose is not very substantial at all. Its geopolitical reality has been overlaid with his plans for it; the sites he has visited, the people he has met, the experiences he has had, are reduced to a few echoes in his pompous generalizations. The last traces of particularity have been rubbed out in the "resume politique" with which the Voyage en Orient concludes.

Against the transcendent quasi-national egoism of Lamartine we must place Nerval and Flaubert in contrast. Their Oriental works play a substantial role in their total oeuvre, a much greater one than Lamartine's imperialist Voyage in his oeuvre. Yet both of them, like Lamartine, came to the Orient prepared for it by voluminous reading in the classics, modern literature, and academic Orientalism; about this preparation Flaubert was much more candid than Nerval, who in Les Filles du feu says disingenuously that all he knew about the Orient was a half-forgotten memory from his school education.93 The evidence of his Voyage en Orient flatly contradicts this, although it shows a much less systematic and disciplined knowledge of Orientalia than Flaubert's. More important, however, is the fact that both writers (Nerval in 1842-1843 and Flaubert in 1849-1850) had greater personal and aesthetic uses for their visits to the Orient than any other nineteenth-century travelers. It is not inconsequential that both were geniuses to begin with, and that both were thoroughly steeped in aspects of European culture that encouraged a sympathetic, if perverse, vision of the Orient. Nerval and Flaubert belonged to that community of thought and feeling described by Mario Praz in The Romantic Agony, a community for which the imagery of exotic places, the cultivation of sadomasochistic tastes (what Praz calls algolagnia), a fascination with the macabre, with the notion of a Fatal Woman, with secrecy and occultism, all combined to enable literary work of the sort produced by Gautier (himself fascinated by the Orient), Swinburne, Baudelaire, and Huysmans.94 For Nerval and Flaubert, such female figures as Cleopatra, Salome, and Isis have a special significance; and it was by no means accidental that in their work on the Orient, as well as in their visits to it, they pre-eminently valorized and enhanced female types of this legendary, richly suggestive, and associative sort.

In addition to their general cultural attitudes, Nerval and Flaubert brought to the Orient a personal mythology whose concerns and even structure required the Orient. Both men were touched by the Oriental renaissance as Quinet and others had defined it: they sought the invigoration provided by the fabulously antique and the exotic. For each, however, the Oriental pilgrimage was a quest for something relatively personal: Flaubert seeking a "homeland," as Jean Bruneau has called it,95 in the locales of the origin of religions, visions, and classical antiquity; Nerval seeking -or rather following-the traces of his personal sentiments and dreams, like Sterne's Yorick before him. For both writers the Orient was a place therefore of deja vu, and for both, with the artistic economy typical of all major aesthetic imaginations, it was a place often returned to after the actual voyage had been completed. For neither of them was the Orient exhausted by their uses of it, even if there is often a quality of disappointment, disenchantment, or demystification to be found in their Oriental writings.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Wed Aug 26, 2020 4:42 am

Part 2 of 2

The paramount importance of Nerval and Flaubert to a study such as this of the Orientalist mind in the nineteenth century is that they produced work that is connected to and depends upon the kind of Orientalism we have so far discussed, yet remains independent from it. First there is the matter of their work's scope. Nerval produced his Voyage en Orient as a collection of travel notes, sketches, stories, and fragments; his preoccupation with the Orient is to be found as well in Les Chimeres, in his letters, in some of his fiction and other prose writings. Flaubert's writing both before and after his visit is soaked in the Orient. The Orient appears in the Carnets de Voyage and in the first version of La Tentation de Saint Antoine (and in the two later versions), as well as in Hérodias, Salammbô, and the numerous reading notes, scenarios, and unfinished stories still available to us, which have been very intelligently studied by Bruneau.96 There are echoes of Orientalism in Flaubert's other major novels, too. In all, both Nerval and Flaubert continually elaborated their Oriental material and absorbed it variously into the special structures of their personal aesthetic projects. This is not to say, however, that the Orient is incidental to their work. Rather-by contrast with such writers as Lane (from whom both men borrowed shamelessly), Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Renan, Sacy-their Orient was not so much grasped, appropriated, reduced, or codified as lived in, exploited aesthetically and imaginatively as a roomy place full of possibility. What mattered to them was the structure of their work as an independent, aesthetic, and personal fact, and not the ways by which, if one wanted to, one could effectively dominate or set down the Orient graphically. Their egos never absorbed the Orient, nor totally identified the Orient with documentary and textual knowledge of it (with official Orientalism, in short).

On the one hand, therefore, the scope of their Oriental work exceeds the limitations imposed by orthodox Orientalism. On the other hand, the subject of their work is more than Oriental or Orientalistic (even though they do their own Orientalizing of the Orient); it quite consciously plays with the limitations and the challenges presented to them by the Orient and by knowledge about it. Nerval, for example, believes that he has to infuse what he sees with vitality since, he says, Le ciel et la mer sont toujours là; le ciel d'Orient, la mer d'Ionie se donnent chaque matin le saint baiser d'amour; mais la terre est morte, morte sous la main de I'homme, et lea dieux se sont envolés!

(The sky and the sea are still there; the Oriental sky and the Ionian sky give each other the sacred kiss of love each morning; but the earth is dead, dead because man has killed it, and the gods have fled.)

If the Orient is to live at all, now that its gods have fled, it must be through his fertile efforts. In the Voyage en Orient the narrative consciousness is a constantly energetic voice, moving through the labyrinths of Oriental existence armed-Nerval tells us-with two Arabic words, tayeb, the word for assent, and mafisch, the word for rejection. These two words enable him selectively to confront the antithetical Oriental world, to confront it and draw out from it its secret principles. He is predisposed to recognize that the Orient is "le pays des rêves et de l'illision," which, like the veils he sees everywhere in Cairo, conceal a deep, rich fund of female sexuality. Nerval repeats Lane's experience of discovering the necessity for marriage in an Islamic society, but unlike Lane he does attach himself to a woman. His liaison with Zaynab is more than socially obligatory:

I must unite with a guileless young girl who is of this sacred soil, which is our first homeland; I must bathe myself in the vivifying springs of humanity, from which poetry and the faith of our fathers flowed forth! ...I would like to lead my life like a novel, and I willingly place myself in the situation of one of those active and resolute heroes who wish at all costs to create a drama around them, a knot of complexity, in a word, action.97

Nerval invests himself in the Orient, producing not so much a novelistic narrative as an everlasting intention-never fully realized -to fuse mind with physical action. This anti-narrative, this para-pilgrimage, is a swerving away from discursive finality of the sort envisioned by previous writers on the Orient.

Connected physically and sympathetically to the Orient, Nerval wanders informally through its riches and its cultural (and principally feminine) ambience, locating in Egypt especially that maternal "center, at once mysterious and accessible" from which all wisdom derives.98 His impressions, dreams, and memories alternate with sections of ornate, mannered narrative done in the Oriental style; the hard realities of travel-in Egypt, Lebanon, Turkey-mingle with the design of a deliberate digression, as if Nerval were repeating Chateaubriand's Itinéraire using an underground, though far less imperial and obvious, route. Michel Butor puts it beautifully:

To Nerval's eyes, Chateaubriand's journey remains a voyage along the surface, while his own is calculated, utilizing annex centers, lobbies of ellipses englobing the principal centers; this allows him to place in evidence, by parallax, all the dimensions of the snare harbored by the normal centers. Wandering the streets or environs of Cairo, Beirut, or Constantinople, Nerval is always lying in wait for anything that will allow him to sense a cavern extending beneath Rome, Athens, and Jerusalem [the principal cities of Chateaubriand's Itinéraire] ....

Just as the three cities of Chateaubriand are in communication -Rome, with its emperors and popes, reassembling the heritage, the testament, of Athens and Jerusalem-the caverns of Nerval ...become engaged in intercourse.99

Even the two large plotted episodes, "The Tale of the Caliph Hakim" and "The Tale of the Queen of the Morning," that will supposedly convey a durable, solid narrative discourse seem to push Nerval away from "overground" finality, edging him further and further into a haunting internal world of paradox and dream. Both tales deal with multiple .identity, one of whose motifs-explicitly stated-is incest, and both return us to Nerval's quintessential Oriental world of uncertain, fluid dreams infinitely multiplying themselves past resolution, definiteness, materiality. When the journey is completed and Nerval arrives in Malta on his way back to the European mainland, he realizes that he is now in "le pays du froid et des orages, et déjà l'Orient n'est plus pour moi qu'un de ses rêves du matin auxquels viennent bientôt succéder les ennuis du jour."100 His Voyage incorporates numerous pages copied out of Lane's Modern Egyptians, but even their lucid confidence seems to dissolve in the endlessly decomposing, cavernous element which is Nerval's Orient.

His carnet for the Voyage supplies us, I think, with two perfect texts for understanding how his Orient untied itself from anything resembling an Orientalist conception of the Orient, even though his work depends on Orientalism to a certain extent. First, his appetites strive to gather in experience and memory indiscriminately: "Je sens le besoin de m'assimiler toute la nature (femmes térangères). Souvenirs d'y avoir vécu." The second elaborates a bit on the first: "Les rêves et la folie ...Le désir de l'Orient.L'Europe s'élève.Le rêve se réalise ...Elle.Je l'avais fuie, je l'avais perdue ...Vaisseau d'Orient."101 The Orient symbolizes Nerval's dreamquest and the fugitive woman central to it, both as desire and as loss. "Vaisseau d'Orient"---vessel of the Orient-refers enigmatically either to the woman as the vessel carrying the Orient, or possibly, to Nerval's own vessel for the Orient, his prose voyage. In either case, the Orient is identified with commemorative absence.

How else can we explain in the Voyage, a work of so original and individual a mind, the lazy use of large swatches of Lane, incorporated without a murmur by Nerval as his descriptions of the Orient? It is as if having failed both in his search for a stable Oriental reality and in his intent to give systematic order to his re-presentation of the Orient, Nerval was employing the borrowed authority of a canonized Orientalist text. After his voyage the earth remained dead, and aside from its brilliantly crafted but fragmented embodiments in the Voyage, his self was no less drugged and worn out than before. Therefore the Orient seemed retrospectively to belong to a negative realm, in which failed narratives, disordered chronicles, mere transcription of scholarly texts, were its only possible vessel. At least Nerval did not try to save his project by wholeheartedly giving himself up to French designs on the Orient, although he did resort to Orientalism to make some of his points.

In contrast to Nerval's negative vision of an emptied Orient, Flaubert's is eminently corporeal. His travel notes and letters reveal a man scrupulously reporting events, persons, and settings, delighting in their bizarreries, never attempting to reduce the incongruities before him. In what he writes (or perhaps because he writes), the premium is on the eye-catching, translated into self-consciously worked-out phrases: for example, "Inscriptions and bird droppings are the only two things in Egypt that give any indication of life.102 His tastes run to the perverse, whose form is often a combination of extreme animality, even of grotesque nastiness, with extreme and sometimes intellectual refinement. Yet this particular kind of perversity was not something merely observed, it was also studied, and came to represent an essential element in Flaubert's fiction. The familiar oppositions, or ambivalences, as Harry Levin has called them, that roam through Flaubert's writing-flesh versus mind, Salome versus Saint John, Salammbo versus Saint Anthony103---are powerfully validated by what he saw in the Orient, what, given his eclectic learning, he could see there of the partnership between knowledge and carnal grossness. In Upper Egypt he was taken with ancient Egyptian art, its preciosity and deliberate lubricity: "so dirty pictures existed even so far back in antiquity?" How much more the Orient really answered questions than it raised them is evident in the following:

You [Flaubert's mother] ask me whether the Orient is up to what I imagined it to be. Yes, it is; and more than that, it extends far beyond the narrow idea I had of it. I have found, clearly delineated, everything that was hazy in my mind. Facts have taken the place of suppositions-so excellently so that it is often as though I were suddenly coming upon old forgotten dreams.104

Flaubert's work is so complex and so vast as to make any simple account of his Oriental writing very sketchy and hopelessly incomplete. Nevertheless, in the context created by other writers on the Orient, a certain number of main features in Flaubert's Orientalism can fairly be described. Making allowances for the difference between candidly personal writing (letters, travel notes, diary jottings) and formally aesthetic writing (novels and tales), we can still remark that Flaubert's Oriental perspective is rooted in an eastward and southward search for a "visionary alternative," which "meant gorgeous color, in contrast to the greyish tonality of the French provincial landscape. It meant exciting spectacle instead of humdrum routine, the perennially mysterious in place of the all too familiar."105 When he actually visited it, however, this Orient impressed him with its decrepitude and senescence. Like every other Orientalism, then, Flaubert's is revivalist: he must bring the Orient to life, he must deliver it to himself and to his readers, and it is his experience of it in books and on the spot, and his language for it that will do the trick. His novels of the Orient accordingly were labored historical and learned reconstructions. Carthage in Salammbo and the products of Saint Anthony's fevered imagination were authentic fruits of Flaubert's wide reading in the (mainly Western) sources of Oriental religion, warfare, ritual, and societies.

What the formal aesthetic work retains, over and above the marks of Flaubert's voracious readings and recensions, are memories of Oriental travel. The Bibliothèque des idées reçues has it that an Orientalist is "un homme qui a beaucoup voyagé,"106 only unlike most other such travelers Flaubert put his voyages to ingenious use. Most of his experiences are conveyed in theatrical form. He is interested not only in the content of what he sees but-like Renan -in how he sees, the way by which the Orient, sometimes horribly but always attractively, seems to present itself to him. Flaubert is its best audience:

...Kasr el-'Aini Hospital. Well maintained. The work of Clot Bey-his hand is still to be seen. Pretty cases of syphilis; in the ward of Abbas's Mamelukes, several have it in the arse. At a sign from the doctor, they all stood up on their beds, undid their trouserbelts (it was like army drill), and opened their anuses with their fingers to show their chancres. Enormous infundibula; one had a growth of hair inside his anus. One old man's prick entirely devoid of skin; I recoiled from the stench. A rachitic: hands curved backward, nails as long as claws; one could see the bone structure of his torso as clearly as a skeleton; the rest of his body, too, was fantastically thin, and his head was ringed with whitish leprosy.

Dissecting room: ...On the table an Arab cadaver, wide open; beautiful black hair ….107

The lurid detail of this scene is related to many scenes in Flaubert's novels, in which illness is presented to us as if in a clinical theater. His fascination with dissection and beauty recalls, for instance, the final scene of Salammbô, culminating in Mâtho's ceremonial death. In such scenes, sentiments of repulsion or sympathy are repressed entirely; what matters is the correct rendering of exact detail.

The most celebrated moments in Flaubert's Oriental travel have to do with Kuchuk Hanem, a famous Egyptian dancer and courtesan he encountered in Wadi Halfa. He had read in Lane about the almehs and the khawals, dancing girls and boys respectively, but it was his imagination rather than Lane's that could immediately grasp as well as enjoy the almost metaphysical paradox of the almeh's profession and the meaning of her name. (In Victory, Joseph Conrad was to repeat Flaubert's observation by making his musician heroine-Alma-irresistibly attractive and dangerous to Axel Heyst.) Alemah in Arabic means a learned woman. It was the name given to women in conservative eighteenth-century Egyptian society who were accomplished reciters of poetry. By the mid-nineteenth century the title was used as a sort of guild name for dancers who were also prostitutes, and such was Kuchuk Hanem, whose dance "L'Abeille" Flaubert watched before he slept with her. She was surely the prototype of several of his novels' female characters in her learned sensuality, delicacy, and (according to Flaubert) mindless coarseness. What he especially liked about her was that she seemed to place no demands on him, while the "nauseating odor" of her bedbugs mingled enchantingly with "the scent of her skin, which was dripping with sandalwood. "After his voyage, he had written Louise Colet reassuringly that "the oriental woman is no more than a machine: she makes no distinction between one man and another man." Kuchuk's dumb and irreducible sexuality allowed Flaubert's mind to wander in ruminations whose haunting power over him reminds us somewhat of Deslauriers and Fréderic Moreau at the end of l'Education sentimentale:

As for me, I scarcely shut my eyes. Watching that beautiful creature asleep (she snored, her head against my arm: I had slipped my forefinger under her necklace), my night was one long, infinitely intense reverie--that was why I stayed. I thought of my nights in Paris brothels-a whole series of old memories came back-and I thought of her, of her dance, of her voice as she sang songs that for me were without meaning and even without distinguishable words.108

The Oriental woman is an occasion and an opportunity for Flaubert's musings; he is entranced by her self-sufficiency, by her emotional carelessness, and also by what, lying next to him, she allows him to think. Less a woman than a display of impressive but verbally inexpressive femininity, Kuchuk is the prototype of Flaubert's Salammbô and Salomé as well as of all the versions of carnal female temptation to which his Saint Anthony is subject. Like the Queen of Sheba (who also danced "The Bee") she could say-were she able to speak-"Je ne suis pas une femme, je suis un monde."109 Looked at from another angle Kuchuk is a disturbing symbol of fecundity, peculiarly Oriental in her luxuriant and seemingly unbounded sexuality. Her home near the upper reaches of the Nile occupied a position structurally similar to the place where the veil of Tanit- the goddess described as Omniféconde-is concealed in Salammbô.110 Yet like Tanit, Salomé and Salammbô herself, Kuchuk was doomed to remain barren, corrupting, without issue. How much she and the Oriental world she lived in came to intensify for Flaubert his own sense of barrenness is indicated in the following:

We have a large orchestra, a rich palette, a variety of resources. We know many more tricks and dodges, probably, than were ever known before. No, what we lack is the intrinsic principle, the soul of the thing, the very idea of the subject. We take notes, we make journeys: emptiness! emptiness! We become scholars, archaeologists, historians, doctors, cobblers, people of taste. What is the good of all that? Where is the heart, the verve, the sap? Where to start from? Where to go? We're good at sucking, we play a lot of tongue-games, we pet for hours: but the real thing! To ejaculate, beget the child! 111

Woven through all of Flaubert's Oriental experiences, exciting or disappointing, is an almost uniform association between the Orient and sex. In making this association Flaubert was neither the first nor the most exaggerated instance of a remarkably persistent motif in Western attitudes to the Orient. And indeed, the motif itself is singularly unvaried, although Flaubert's genius may have done more than anyone else's could have to give it artistic dignity. Why the Orient seems still to suggest not only fecundity but sexual promise (and threat), untiring sensuality, unlimited desire, deep generative energies, is something on which one could speculate: it is not the province of my analysis here, alas, despite its frequently noted appearance. Nevertheless one must acknowledge its importance as something eliciting complex responses, sometimes even a frightening self-discovery, in the Orientalists, and Flaubert was an interesting case in point.

The Orient threw him back on his own human and technical resources. It did not respond, just as Kuchuk did not, to his presence. Standing before its ongoing life Flaubert, like Lane before him, felt his detached powerlessness, perhaps also his self-induced unwillingness, to enter and become part of what he saw. This of course was Flaubert's perennial problem; it had existed before he went East, and it remained after the visit. Flaubert admitted the difficulty, the antidote to which was in his work (especially in an Oriental work like La Tentation de Saint Antoine) to stress the form of encyclopedic presentation of material at the expense of human engagement in life. Indeed, Saint Anthony is nothing if not a man for whom reality is a series of books, spectacles, and pageants unrolling temptingly and at a distance before his eyes. All of Flaubert's immense learning is structured-as Michel Foucault has tellingly noted-like a theatrical, fantastic library, parading before the anchorite's gaze; 112 residually, the parade carries in its form Flaubert's memories of Kasr el'Aini (the syphilitics' army drill) and Kuchuk's dance. More to the point, however, is that Saint Anthony is a celibate to whom temptations are primarily sexual. After putting up with every sort of dangerous charm, he is finally given a glimpse into the biological processes of life; he is delirious at being able to see life being born, a scene for which Flaubert felt himself to be incompetent during his Oriental sojourn. Yet because Anthony is delirious, we are meant to read the scene ironically. What is granted to him at the end, the desire to become matter, to become life, is at best a desire-whether realizable and fulfillable or not, we cannot know.

Despite the energy of his intelligence and his enormous power, of intellectual absorption, Flaubert felt in the Orient, first, that "the more you concentrate on it [in detail] the less you grasp the whole," and then, second, that "the pieces fall into place of themselves."113 At best, this produces a spectacular form, but it remains barred to the Westerner's full participation in it. On one level this was a personal predicament for Flaubert, and he devised means, some of which we have discussed, for dealing with it. On a more general level, this was an epistemological difficulty for which, of course, the discipline of Orientalism existed. At one moment during his Oriental tour he considered what the epistemological challenge could give rise to: Without what he called spirit and style, the mind could "get lost in archaeology": he was referring to a sort of regimented antiquarianism by which the exotic and the strange would get formulated into lexicons, codes, and finally cliches of the kind he was to ridicule in the Dictionnaire des idées reçues. Under the influence of such an attitude the world would be "regulated like a college. Teachers will be the law. Everyone will be in uniform."114 As against such an imposed discipline, he no doubt felt that his own treatments of exotic material, notably the Oriental material he had both experienced and read about for years, were infinitely preferable. In those at least there was room for a sense of immediacy, imagination, and flair, whereas in the ranks of archaeological tomes everything but "learning" had been squeezed out. And more than most novelists Flaubert was acquainted with organized learning, its products, and its results: these products are clearly evident in the misfortunes of Bouvard and Pecuchet, but they would have been as comically apparent in fields like Orientalism, whose textual attitudes belonged to the world of idées reçues. Therefore one could either construct the world with verve and style, or one could copy it tirelessly according to impersonal academic rules of procedure.

In both cases, with regard to the Orient, there was a frank acknowledgment that it was a world elsewhere, apart from the ordinary attachments, sentiments, and values of our world in the West.

In all of his novels Flaubert associates the Orient with the escapism of sexual fantasy. Emma Bovary and Fréderic Moreau pine for what in their drab (or harried) bourgeois lives they do not have, and what they realize they want comes easily to their daydreams packed inside Oriental clichés: harems, princesses, princes, slaves, veils, dancing girls and boys, sherbets, ointments, and so on. The repertoire is familiar, not so much because it reminds us of Flaubert's own voyages in and obsession with the Orient, but because, once again, the association is clearly made between the Orient and the freedom of licentious sex. We may as well recognize that for nineteenth-century Europe, with its increasing embourgeoisement, sex had been institutionalized to a very considerable degree. On the one hand, there was no such thing as "free" sex, and on the other, sex in society entailed a web of legal, moral, even political and economic obligations of a detailed and certainly encumbering sort. Just as the various colonial possessions-quite apart from their economic benefit to metropolitan Europe-were useful as places to send wayward sons, superfluous populations of delinquents, poor people, and other undesirables, so the Orient was a place where one could look for sexual experience unobtainable in Europe. Virtually no European writer who wrote on or traveled to the Orient in the period after 1800 exempted himself or herself from this quest: Flaubert, Nerval, "Dirty Dick" Burton, and Lane are only the most notable. In the twentieth century one thinks of Gide, Conrad, Maugham, and dozens of others. What they looked for often-correctly, I think-was a different type of sexuality, perhaps more libertine and less guilt-ridden; but even that quest, if repeated by enough people, could (and did) become as regulated and uniform as learning itself. In time "Oriental sex" was as standard a commodity as any other available in the mass culture, with the result that readers and writers could have it if they wished without necessarily going to the Orient.

It was certainly true that by the middle of the nineteenth century France, no less than England and the rest of Europe, had a flourishing knowledge industry of the sort that Flaubert feared. Great numbers of texts were being produced, and more important, the agencies and institutions for their dissemination and propagation were everywhere to be found. As historians of science and knowledge have observed, the organization of scientific and learned fields that took place during the nineteenth century was both rigorous and all-encompassing. Research became a regular activity; there was a regulated exchange of information, and agreement on what the problems were as well as consensus on the appropriate paradigms for research and its results.115 The apparatus serving Oriental studies was part of the scene, and this was one thing that Flaubert surely had in mind when he proclaimed that "everyone will be in uniform." An Orientalist was no longer a gifted amateur enthusiast, or if he was, he would have trouble being taken seriously as a scholar. To be an Orientalist meant university training in Oriental studies (by 1850 every major European university had a fully developed curriculum in one or another of the Orientalist disciplines), it meant subvention for one's travel (perhaps by one of the Asiatic societies or a geographical exploration fund or a government grant), it meant publication in accredited form (perhaps under the imprint of a learned society or an Oriental translation fund). And both within the guild of Orientalist scholars and to the public at large, such uniform accreditation as clothed the work of Orientalist scholarship, not personal testimony nor subjective impressionism, meant Science.

Added to the oppressive regulation of Oriental matters was the accelerated attention paid by the Powers (as the European empires were called) to the Orient, and to the Levant in particular. Ever since the Treaty of Chanak of 1806 between the Ottoman Empire and Great Britain, the Eastern Question had hovered ever more prominently on Europe's Mediterranean horizons. Britain's interests were more substantial in the East than France's, but we must not forget Russia's movements into the Orient (Samarkand and Bokhara were taken in 1868; the Transcaspian Railroad was being extended systematically), nor Germany's and Austria-Hungary's. France's North African interventions, however, were not the only components of its Islamic policy. In 1860, during the clashes between Maronites and Druzes in Lebanon (already predicted by Lamartine and Nerval), France supported the Christians, England the Druzes. For standing near the center of all European politics in the East was the question of minorities, whose "interests" the Powers, each in its own way, claimed to protect and represent. Jews, Greek and Russian Orthodox, Druzes, Circassians, Armenians, Kurds, the various small Christian sects: all these were studied, planned for, designed upon by European Powers improvising as well as constructing their Oriental policy.

I mention such matters simply as a way of keeping vivid the sense of layer upon layer of interests, official learning, institutional pressure, that covered the Orient as a subject matter and as a territory during the latter half of the nineteenth century. Even the most innocuous travel book-and there were literally hundreds written after mid-century116 -contributed to the density of public awareness of the Orient; a heavily marked dividing line separated the delights, miscellaneous exploits, and testimonial portentousness of individual pilgrims in the East (which included some American voyagers, among them Mark Twain and Herman Melville117) from the authoritative reports of scholarly travelers, missionaries, governmental functionaries, and other expert witnesses. This dividing line existed clearly in Flaubert's mind, as it must have for any individual consciousness that did not have an innocent perspective on the Orient as a terrain for literary exploitation.

English writers on the whole had a more pronounced and harder sense of what Oriental pilgrimages might entail than the French. India was a valuably real constant in this sense, and therefore all the territory between the Mediterranean and India acquired a correspondingly weighty importance. Romantic writers like Byron and Scott consequently had a political vision of the Near Orient and a very combative awareness of how relations between the Orient and Europe would have to be conducted. Scott's historical sense in The Talisman and Count Robert of Paris allowed him to set these novels in Crusader Palestine and eleventh-century Byzantium, respectively, without at the same time detracting from his canny political appreciation of the way powers act abroad. The failure of Disraeli's Tancred can easily be ascribed to its author's perhaps overdeveloped knowledge of Oriental politics and the British Establishment's network of interests; Tancred's ingenuous desire to go to Jerusalem very soon mires Disraeli in ludicrously complex descriptions of how a Lebanese tribal chieftain tries to manage Druzes, Muslims, Jews, slid Europeans to his political advantage. By the end of the novel Tancred's Eastern quest has more or less disappeared because there is nothing in Disraeli's material vision of Oriental realities to nourish the pilgrim's somewhat capricious impulses. Even George Eliot, who never visited the Orient herself, could not sustain the Jewish equivalent of an Oriental pilgrimage in Daniel Deronda (1876) without straying into the complexities of British realities as they decisively affected the Eastern project.

Thus whenever the Oriental motif for the English writer was not principally a stylistic matter (as in FitzGerald's Rubaiyat or in Morier's Adventures of Hajji Baba of Ispahan), it forced him to confront a set of imposing resistances to his individual fantasy. There are no English equivalents to the Oriental works by Chateaubriand, Lamartine, Nerval, and Flaubert, just as Lane's early Orientalist counterparts--Sacy and Renan-were considerably more aware than he Was of how much they were creating what they wrote about. The form of such works as Kinglake's Eothen (1844) and Burton's Personal Narrative of a Pilgrimage to Al-Madinah and Meccah (1855-1856) is rigidly chronological and dutifully linear, as if what the authors were describing was a shopping trip to an Oriental bazaar rather than an adventure. Kinglake's undeservedly famous and popular work is a pathetic catalogue of pompous ethnocentrisms and tiringly nondescript accounts of the Englishman's East. His ostensible purpose in the book is to prove that travel in the Orient is important to "moulding of your character that is, your very identity," but in fact this turns out to be little more than solidifying "your" anti-Semitism, xenophobia, and general all-purpose race prejudice. We are told, for instance, that the Arabian Nights is too lively and inventive a work to have been created by a "mere Oriental, who, for creative purposes, is a thing dead and dry-a mental mummy." Although Kinglake blithely confesses to no knowledge of any Oriental language, he is not constrained by ignorance from making sweeping generalizations about the Orient, its culture, mentality, and society. Many of the attitudes he repeats are canonical, of course, but it is interesting how little the experience of actually seeing the Orient affected his opinions. Like many other travelers he is more interested in remaking himself and the Orient (dead and dry-a mental mummy) than he is in seeing what there is to be seen. Every being he encounters merely corroborates his belief that Easterners are best dealt with when intimidated, and what better instrument of intimidation than a sovereign Western ego? En route to Suez across the desert, alone, he glories in his self-sufficiency and power: "I was here in this African desert, and I myself, and no other, had charge of my life."118 It is for the comparatively useless purpose of letting Kinglake take hold of himself that the Orient serves him.

Like Lamartine before him, Kinglake comfortably identified his superior consciousness with his nation's, the difference being that in the Englishman's case his government was closer to settling in the rest of the Orient than France was-for the time being. Flaubert saw this with perfect accuracy:

It seems to me almost impossible that within a short time England won't become mistress of Egypt. She already keeps Aden full of her troops, the crossing of Suez will make it very easy for the redcoats to arrive in Cairo one fine morning-the news will reach France two weeks later and everyone will be very surprised! Remember my prediction: at the first sign of trouble in Europe, England will take Egypt, Russia will take Constantinople, and we, in retaliation, will get ourselves massacred in the mountains of Syria. 119

For all their vaunted individuality Kinglake's views express a public and national will over the Orient; his ego is the instrument of this will's expression, not by any means its master. There is no evidence in his writing that he struggled to create a novel opinion of the Orient; neither his knowledge nor his personality was adequate for that, and this is the great difference between him and Richard Burton. As a traveler, Burton was a real adventurer; as a scholar, he could hold his own with any academic Orientalist in Europe; as a character, he was fully aware of the necessity of combat between himself and the uniformed teachers who ran Europe and European knowledge with such precise anonymity and scientific firmness. Everything Burton wrote testifies to this combativeness, rarely with more candid contempt for his opponents than in the preface to his translation of the Arabian Nights. He seems to have taken a special sort of infantile pleasure in demonstrating that he knew more than any professional scholar, that he had acquired many more details than they had, that he could handle the material with more wit and tact and freshness than they.

As I said earlier, Burton's work based on his personal experience occupies a median position between Orientalist genres represented on the one hand by Lane and on the other by the French writers I have discussed. His Oriental narratives are structured as pilgrimages and, in the case of The Land of Midian Revisited, pilgrimages for a second time to sites of sometimes religious, sometimes political and economic significance. He is present as the principal character of these works, as much the center of fantastic adventure and even fantasy (like the French writers) as the authoritative commentator and detached Westerner on Oriental society and customs (like Lane). He has been rightly considered the first in a series of fiercely individualistic Victorian travelers in the East (the others being Blunt and Doughty) by Thomas Assad, who bases his work on the distance in tone and intelligence between his writers' work and such works as Austen Layard's Discoveries in the Ruins of Nineveh and Babylon (1851), Eliot Warburton's celebrated The Crescent and the Cross (1844), Robert Curzon's Visit to the Monasteries of the Levant (1849) , and (a work he does not mention) Thackeray's moderately amusing Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo (1845).120 Yet Burton's legacy is more complex than individualism precisely because in his writing we can find exemplified the struggle between individualism and a strong feeling of national identification with Europe (specifically England) as an imperial power in the East. Assad sensitively points out that Burton was an imperialist, for all his sympathetic self-association with the Arabs; but what is more relevant is that Burton thought of himself both as a rebel against authority (hence his identification with the East as a place of freedom from Victorian moral authority) and as a potential agent of authority in the East. It is the manner of that coexistence, between two antagonistic roles for himself, that is of interest.

The problem finally reduces itself to the problem of knowledge of the Orient, which is why a consideration of Burton's Orientalism ought to conclude our account of Orientalist structures and restructures in most of the nineteenth century. As a traveling adventurer Burton conceived of himself as sharing the life of the people in whose lands he lived. Far more successfully than T. E. Lawrence, he was able to become an Oriental; he not only spoke the language flawlessly, he was able to penetrate to the heart of Islam and, disguised as an Indian Muslim doctor, accomplish the pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet Burton's most extraordinary characteristic is, I believe, that he was preternaturally knowledgeable about the degree to which human life in society was governed by rules and codes. All of his vast information about the Orient, which dots every page he wrote, reveals that he knew that the Orient in general and Islam in particular were systems of information, behavior, and belief, that to be an Oriental or a Muslim was to know certain things in a certain way, and that these were of course subject to history, geography, and the development of society in circumstances specific to it. Thus his accounts of travel in the East reveal to us a consciousness aware of these things and able to steer a narrative course through them: no man who did not know Arabic and Islam as well as Burton could have gone as far as he did in actually becoming a pilgrim to Mecca and Medina. So what we read in his prose is the history of a consciousness negotiating its way through an alien culture by virtue of having successfully absorbed its systems of information and behavior. Burton's freedom was in having shaken himself loose of his European origins enough to be able to live as an Oriental. Every scene in the Pilgrimage reveals him as winning out over the obstacles confronting him, a foreigner, in a strange place. He was able to do this because he had sufficient knowledge of an alien society for this purpose.

In no writer on the Orient so much as in Burton do we feel that generalizations about the Oriental-for example, the pages on the notion of Kayf for the Arab or on how education is suited to the Oriental mind (pages that are clearly meant as a rebuttal to Macaulay's simple-minded assertions)121-are the result of knowledge acquired about the Orient by living there, actually seeing it firsthand, truly trying to see Oriental life from the viewpoint of a person immersed in it. Yet what is never far from the surface of Burton's prose is another sense it radiates, a sense of assertion and domination over all the complexities of Oriental life. Every one of Burton's footnotes, whether in the Pilgrimage or in his translation of the Arabian Nights (the same is true of his "Terminal Essay" for it122) was meant to be testimony to his victory over the sometimes scandalous system of Oriental knowledge, a system he had mastered by himself. For even in Burton's prose we are never directly given the Orient; everything about it is presented to us by way of Burton's knowledgeable (and often prurient) interventions, which remind us repeatedly how he had taken over the management of Oriental life for the purposes of his narrative. And it is this fact -for in the Pilgrimage it is a fact-that elevates Burton's consciousness to a position of supremacy over the Orient. In that position his individuality perforce encounters, and indeed merges with, the voice of Empire, which is itself a system of rules, codes, and concrete epistemological habits. Thus when Burton tells us in the Pilgrimage that "Egypt is a treasure to be won," that it "is the most tempting prize which the East holds out to the ambition of Europe, not excepted even the Golden Horn, 123 we must recognize how the voice of the highly idiosyncratic master of Oriental knowledge informs, feeds into the voice of European ambition for rule over the Orient.

Burton's two voices blending into one presage the work of Orientalists-cumimperial agents like T. E. Lawrence, Edward Henry Palmer, D. G. Hogarth, Gertrude Bell, Ronald Storrs, St. John Philby, and William Gifford Palgrave, to name only some English writers. The double-pronged intention of Burton's work is at the same time to use his Oriental residence for scientific observation and not easily to sacrifice his individuality to that end. The second of these two intentions leads him inevitably to submit to the first because, as will appear increasingly obvious, he is a European for whom such knowledge of Oriental society as he has is possible only for a European, with a European's self-awareness of society as -a collection of rules and practices. In other words, to be a European in the Orient, and to be one knowledgeably, one must see and know the Orient as a domain ruled over by Europe. Orientalism, which is the system of European or Western knowledge about the Orient, thus becomes synonymous with European domination of the Orient, and this domination effectively overrules even the eccentricities of Burton's personal style.

Burton took the assertion of personal, authentic, sympathetic, and humanistic knowledge of the Orient as far as it would go in its struggle with the archive of official European knowledge about the Orient. In the history of nineteenth century attempts to restore, restructure, and redeem all the various provinces of knowledge and life, Orientalism-like all the other Romantically inspired learned disciplines-contributed an important share. For not only did the field evolve from a system of inspired observation into what Flaubert called a regulated college of learning, it also reduced the personalities of even its most redoubtable individualists like Burton to the role of imperial scribe. From being a place, the Orient became a domain of actual scholarly rule and potential imperial sway. The role of the early Orientalists like Renan, Sacy, and Lane was to provide their work and the Orient together with a mise en scene; later Orientalists, scholarly or imaginative, took firm hold of the scene. Still later, as the scene required management, it became clear that institutions and governments were better at the game of management than individuals. This is the legacy of nineteenth-century Orientalism to which the twentieth century has become inheritor. We must now investigate as exactly as possible the way twentieth-century Orientalism-inaugurated by the long process of the West's occupation of the Orient from the 1880s on-successfully controlled freedom and knowledge; in short, the way Orientalism was fully formalized into a repeatedly produced copy of itself.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:05 am

Part 1 of 2

Chapter 3: Orientalism Now

On les apercevait tenant leurs idoles entre leurs bras comme de grands enfants paralytiques.

-- Gustave Flaubert, La Tentation de Saint Antoine


The conquest of the earth, which mostly means the taking it away from those who have a different complexion or slightly flatter noses than ourselves, is not a pretty thing when you look into it too much. What redeems it is the idea only. An idea at the back of it; not a sentimental pretence but an idea; and an unselfish belief in the idea -- something you can set up, and bow down before, and offer a sacrifice to…

-- Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness


I- Latent and Manifest Orientalism

In Chapter One, I tried to indicate the scope of thought and action covered by the word Orientalism, using as privileged types the British and French experiences of and with the Near Orient, Islam, and the Arabs. In those experiences I discerned an intimate, perhaps even the most intimate, and rich relationship between Occident and Orient. Those experiences were part of a much wider European or Western relationship with the Orient, but what seems to have influenced Orientalism most was a fairly constant sense of confrontation felt by Westerners dealing with the East. The boundary notion of East and West, the varying degrees of projected inferiority and strength, the range of work done, the kinds of characteristic features ascribed to the Orient: all these testify to a willed imaginative and geographic division made between East and West, and lived through during many centuries. In Chapter Two my focus narrowed a good deal. I was interested in the earliest phases of what I call modern Orientalism, which began during the latter part of the eighteenth century and the early years of the nineteenth. Since I did not intend my study to become a narrative chronicle of the development of Oriental studies in the modern West, I proposed instead an account of the rise, development, and institutions of Orientalism as they were formed against a background of intellectual, cultural, and political history until about 1870 or 1880. Although my interest in Orientalism there included a decently ample variety of scholars and imaginative writers, I cannot claim by any means to have presented more than a portrait of the typical structures (and their ideological tendencies) constituting the field, its associations with other fields, and the work of some of its most influential scholars. My principal operating assumptions were-and continue to be-that fields of learning, as much as the works of even the most eccentric artist, are constrained and acted upon by society, by cultural traditions, by worldly circumstance, and by stabilizing influences like schools, libraries, and governments; moreover, that both learned and imaginative writing are never free, but are limited in their imagery, assumptions, and intentions; and finally, that the advances made by a "science" like Orientalism in its academic form are less objectively true than we often like to think. In short, my study hitherto has tried to describe the economy that makes Orientalism a coherent subject matter, even while allowing that as an idea, concept, or image the word Orient has a considerable and interesting cultural resonance in the West.

I realize that such assumptions are not without their controversial side. Most of us assume in a general way that learning and scholarship move forward; they get better, we feel, as time passes and as more information is accumulated, methods are refined, and later generations of scholars improve upon earlier ones. In addition, we entertain a mythology of creation, in which it is believed that artistic genius, an original talent, or a powerful intellect can leap beyond the confines of its own time and place in order to put before the world a new work. It would be pointless to deny that such ideas as these carry some truth. Nevertheless the possibilities for work present in the culture to a great and original mind are never unlimited, just as it is also true that a great talent has a very healthy respect for what others have done before it and for what the field already contains. The work of predecessors, the institutional life of a scholarly field, the collective nature of any learned enterprise: these, to say nothing of economic and social circumstances, tend to diminish the effects of the individual scholar's production. A field like Orientalism has a cumulative and corporate identity, one that is particularly strong given its associations with traditional learning (the classics, the Bible, philology), public institutions (governments, trading companies, geographical societies, universities), and generically determined writing (travel books, books of exploration, fantasy, exotic description). The result for Orientalism has been a sort of consensus: certain things, certain types of statement, certain types of work have seemed for the Orientalist correct. He has built his work and research upon them, and they in turn have pressed hard upon new writers and scholars. Orientalism can thus be regarded as a manner of regularized (or Orientalized) writing, vision, and study, dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient. The Orient is taught, researched, administered, and pronounced upon in certain discrete ways.

The Orient that appears in Orientalism, then, is a system of representations framed by a whole set of forces that brought the Orient into Western learning, Western consciousness, and later, Western empire. If this definition of Orientalism seems more political than not, that is simply because I think Orientalism was itself a product of certain political forces and activities. Orientalism is a school of interpretation whose material happens to be the Orient, its civilizations, peoples, and localities. Its objective discoveries-the work of innumerable devoted scholars who edited texts and translated them, codified grammars, wrote dictionaries, reconstructed dead epochs, produced positivistically verifiable learning-are and always have been conditioned by the fact that its truths, like any truths delivered by language, are embodied in language, and what is the truth of language, Nietzsche once said, but a mobile army of metaphors, metonyms, and anthropomorphisms -in short, a sum of human relations, which have been enhanced, transposed, and embellished poetically and rhetorically, and which after long use seem firm, canonical, and obligatory to a people: truths are illusions about which one has forgotten that this is what they are.1

Perhaps such a view as Nietzsche's will strike us as too nihilistic, but at least it will draw attention to the fact that so far as it existed in the West's awareness, the Orient was a word which later accrued to it a wide field of meanings, associations, and connotations, and that these did not necessarily refer to the real Orient but to the field surrounding the word.

Thus Orientalism is not only a positive doctrine about the Orient that exists at any one time in the West; it is also an influential academic tradition (when one refers to an academic specialist who is called an Orientalist), as well as an area of concern defined by travelers, commercial enterprises, governments, military expeditions, readers of novels and accounts of exotic adventure, natural historians, and pilgrims to whom the Orient is a specific kind of knowledge about specific places, peoples, and civilizations. For the Orient idioms became frequent, and these idioms took firm hold in European discourse. Beneath the idioms there was a layer of doctrine about the Orient; this doctrine was fashioned out of the experiences of many Europeans, all of them converging upon such essential aspects of the Orient as the Oriental character, Oriental despotism, Oriental sensuality, and the like. For any European during the nineteenth century-and I think one can say this almost without qualification-Orientalism was such a system of truths, truths in Nietzsche's sense of the word. It is therefore correct that every European, in what he could say about the Orient, was consequently a racist, an imperialist, and almost totally ethnocentric. Some of the immediate sting will be taken out of these labels if we recall additionally that human societies, at least the more advanced cultures, have rarely offered the individual anything but imperialism, racism, and ethnocentrism for dealing with "other" cultures. So Orientalism aided and was aided by general cultural pressures that tended to make more rigid the sense of difference between the European and Asiatic parts of the world. My contention is that Orientalism is fundamentally a political doctrine willed over the Orient because the Orient was weaker than the West, which elided the Orient's difference with its weakness.

This proposition was introduced early in Chapter One, and nearly everything in the pages that followed was intended in part as a corroboration of it. The very presence of a "field" such as Orientalism, with no corresponding equivalent in the Orient itself, suggests the relative strength of Orient and Occident. A vast number of pages on the Orient exist, and they of course signify a degree and quantity of interaction with the Orient that are quite formidable; but the crucial index of Western strength is that there is no possibility of comparing the movement of Westerners eastwards (since the end of the eighteenth century) with the movement of Easterners westwards. Leaving aside the fact that Western armies, consular corps, merchants, and scientific and archaeological expeditions were always going East, the number of travelers from the Islamic East to Europe between 1800 and 1900 is minuscule when compared with the number in the other direction.2 Moreover, the Eastern travelers in the West were there to learn from and to gape at an advanced culture; the purposes of the Western travelers in the Orient were, as we have seen, of quite a different order. In addition, it has been estimated that around 60,000 books dealing with the Near Orient were written between 1800 and 1950; there is no remotely comparable figure for Oriental books about the West. As a cultural apparatus Orientalism is all aggression, activity, judgment, will to truth, and knowledge. The Orient existed for the West, or so it seemed to countless Orientalists, whose attitude to what they worked on was either paternalistic or candidly condescending-unless, of course, they were antiquarians, in which case the "classical" Orient was a credit to them and not to the lamentable modern Orient. And then, beefing up the Western scholars' work, there were numerous agencies and institutions with no parallels in Oriental society.

Such an imbalance between East and West is obviously a function of changing historical patterns. During its political and military heyday from the eighth century to the sixteenth, Islam dominated both East and West. Then the center of power shifted westwards, and now in the late twentieth century it seems to be directing itself back towards the East again. My account of nineteenth-century Orientalism in Chapter Two stopped at a particularly charged period in the latter part of the century, when the often dilatory, abstract, and projective aspects of Orientalism were about to take on a new sense of worldly mission in the service of formal colonialism. It is this project and this moment that I want now to describe, especially since it will furnish us with some important background for the twentieth-century crises of Orientalism and the resurgence of political and cultural strength in the East.

On several occasions I have alluded to the connections between Orientalism as a body of ideas, beliefs, cliches, or learning about the East, and other schools of thought at large in the culture. Now one of the important developments in nineteenth-century Orientalism was the distillation of essential ideas about the Orient-its sensuality, its tendency to despotism, its aberrant mentality, its habits of inaccuracy, its backwardnessinto a separate and unchallenged coherence; thus for a writer to use the word Oriental was a reference for the reader sufficient to identify a specific body of information about the Orient. This information seemed to be morally neutral and objectively valid; it seemed to have an epistemological status equal to that of historical chronology or geographical location. In its most basic form, then, Oriental material could not really be violated by anyone's discoveries, nor did it seem ever to be revaluated completely. Instead, the work of various nineteenth-century scholars and of imaginative writers made this essential body of knowledge more clear, more detailed, more substantial-and more distinct from "Occidentalism." Yet Orientalist ideas could enter into alliance with general philosophical theories (such as those about the history of mankind and civilization) and diffuse world-hypotheses, as philosophers sometimes call them; and in many ways the professional contributors to Oriental knowledge were anxious to couch their formulations and ideas, their scholarly work, their considered contemporary observations, in language and terminology whose cultural validity derived from other sciences and systems of thought.

The distinction I am making is really between an almost unconscious (and certainly an untouchable) positivity, which I shall call latent Orientalism, and the various stated views about Oriental society, languages, literatures, history, sociology, and so forth, which I shall call manifest Orientalism. Whatever change occurs in knowledge of the Orient is found almost exclusively in manifest Orientalism; the unanimity, stability, and durability of latent Orientalism are more or less constant. In the nineteenth-century writers I analyzed in Chapter Two, the differences in their ideas about the Orient can be characterized as exclusively manifest differences, differences in form and personal style, rarely in basic content. Every one of them kept intact the separateness of the Orient, its eccentricity, its backwardness, its silent indifference, its feminine penetrability, its supine malleability; this is why every writer on the Orient, from Renan to Marx (ideologically speaking), or from the most rigorous scholars (Lane and Sacy) to the most powerful imaginations (Flaubert and Nerval), saw the Orient as a locale requiring Western attention, reconstruction, even redemption. The Orient existed as a place isolated from the mainstream of European progress in the sciences, arts, and commerce. Thus whatever good or bad values were imputed to the Orient appeared to be functions of some highly specialized Western interest in the Orient. This was the situation from about the 1870s on through the early part of the twentieth century-but let me give some examples that illustrate what I mean.

Theses of Oriental backwardness, degeneracy, and inequality with the West most easily associated themselves early in the nineteenth century with ideas about the biological bases of racial inequality. Thus the racial classifications found in Cuvier's Le Regne animal, Gobineau's Essai sur l'inégalité des races humaines, and Robert Knox's The Dark Races of Man found a willing partner in latent Orientalism. To these ideas was added second-order Darwinism, which seemed to accentuate the "scientific" validity of the division of races into advanced and backward, or EuropeanAryan and Oriental-African. Thus the whole question of imperialism, as it was debated in the late nineteenth century by proimperialists and anti-imperialists alike, carried forward the binary typology of advanced and backward (or subject) races, cultures, and societies. John Westlake's Chapters on the Principles of International Law (1894) argues, for example, that regions of the earth designated as "uncivilized" (a word carrying the freight of Orientalist assumptions, among others) ought to be annexed or occupied by advanced powers. Similarly, the ideas of such writers as Carl Peters, Leopold de Saussure, and Charles Temple draw on the advanced/backward binarism 3 so centrally advocated in late-nineteenth-century Orientalism.

Along with all other peoples variously designated as backward, degenerate, uncivilized, and retarded, the Orientals were viewed in a framework constructed out of biological determinism and moral-political admonishment. The Oriental was linked thus to elements in Western society (delinquents, the insane, women, the poor) having in common an identity best described as lamentably alien. Orientals were rarely seen or looked at; they were seen through, analyzed not as citizens, or even people, but as problems to be solved or confined or-as the colonial powers openly coveted their territory-taken over. The point is that the very designation of something as Oriental involved an already pronounced evaluative judgment, and in the case of the peoples inhabiting the decayed Ottoman Empire, an implicit program of action. Since the Oriental was a member of a subject race, he had to be subjected: it was that simple. The locus classicus for such judgment and action is to be found in Gustave Le Bon's Les Lois psychologiques de l'évolution des peuples (1894).

But there were other uses for latent Orientalism. If that group of ideas allowed one to separate Orientals from advanced, civilizing powers, and if the "classical" Orient served to justify both the Orientalist and his disregard of modern Orientals, latent Orientalism also encouraged a peculiarly (not to say invidiously) male conception of the world. I have already referred to this in passing during my discussion of Renan. The Oriental male was considered in isolation from the total community in which he lived and which many Orientalists, following Lane, have viewed with something resembling contempt and fear. Orientalism itself, furthermore, was an exclusively male province; like so many professional guilds during the modern period, it viewed itself and its subject matter with sexist blinders. This is especially evident in the writing of travelers and novelists: women are usually the creatures of a male power-fantasy. They express unlimited sensuality, they are more or less stupid, and above all they are willing. Flaubert's Kuchuk Hanem is the prototype of such caricatures, which were common enough in pornographic novels (e.g., Pierre Louys's Aphrodite) whose novelty draws on the Orient for their interest. Moreover the male conception of the world, in its effect upon the practicing Orientalist, tends to be static, frozen, fixed eternally. The very possibility of development, transformation, human movement in the deepest sense of the word-is denied the Orient and the Oriental. As a known and ultimately an immobilized or unproductive quality, they come to be identified with a bad sort of eternality: hence, when the Orient is being approved, such phrases as "the wisdom of the East."

Transferred from an implicit social evaluation to a grandly cultural one, this static male Orientalism took on a variety of forms in the late nineteenth century, especially when Islam was being discussed. General cultural historians as respected as Leopold von Ranke and Jacob Burckhardt assailed Islam as if they were dealing not so much with an anthropomorphic abstraction as with a religiopolitical culture about which deep generalizations were possible and warranted: in his Weltgeschichte (1881- 1888) Ranke spoke of Islam as defeated by the Germanic-Romanic peoples, and in his "Historische Fragmente" (unpublished notes, 1893) Burckhardt spoke of Islam as wretched, bare, and trivial.4 Such intellectual operations were carried out with considerably more flair and enthusiasm by Oswald Spengler, whose ideas about a Magian personality (typified by the Muslim Oriental) infuse Der Untergang des Abendlandes (1918-1922) and the "morphology" of cultures it advocates.

What these widely diffused notions of the Orient depended on was the almost total absence in contemporary Western culture of the Orient as a genuinely felt and experienced force. For a number of evident reasons the Orient was always in the position both of outsider and of incorporated weak partner for the West. To the extent that Western scholars were aware of contemporary Orientals or Oriental movements of thought and culture, these were perceived either as silent shadows to be animated by the Orientalist, brought into reality by him, or as a kind of cultural and intellectual proletariat useful for the Orientalist's grander interpretative activity, necessary for his performance as superior judge, learned man, powerful cultural will. I mean to say that in discussions of the Orient, the Orient is all absence, whereas one feels the Orientalist and what he says as presence; yet we must not forget that the Orientalist's presence is enabled by the Orient's effective absence.

This fact of substitution and displacement, as we must call it, clearly places on the Orientalist himself a certain pressure to reduce the Orient in his work, even after he has devoted a good deal of time to elucidating and exposing it. How else can one explain major scholarly production of the type we associate with Julius Wellhausen and Theodor Noldeke and, overriding it, those bare, sweeping statements that almost totally denigrate their chosen subject matter? Thus Noldeke could declare in 1887 that the sum total of his work as an Orientalist was to confirm his "low opinion" of the Eastern peoples. 5 And like Carl Becker, Ndldeke was a philhellenist, who showed his love of Greece curiously by displaying a positive dislike of the Orient, which after all was what he studied as a scholar.

A very valuable and intelligent study of Orientalism-Jacques Waardenburg's L'Islam dans le miroir de l'Occident -- examines five important experts as makers of an image of Islam. Waardenburg's mirrorimage metaphor for late nineteenth- and earlytwentieth-century Orientalism is apt. In the work of each of his eminent Orientalists there is a highly tendentious-in four cases out of the five, even hostile-vision of Islam, as if each man saw Islam as a reflection of his own chosen weakness. Each scholar was profoundly learned, and the style of his contribution was unique. The five Orientalists among them exemplify what was best and strongest in the tradition during the period roughly from the 1880s to the interwar years. Yet Ignaz Goldziher's appreciation of Islam's tolerance towards other religions was undercut by his dislike of Mohammed's anthropomorphisms and Islam's too-exterior theology and jurisprudence; Duncan Black Macdonald's interest in Islamic piety and orthodoxy was vitiated by his perception of what he considered Islam's heretical Christianity; Carl Becker's understanding of Islamic civilization made him see it as a sadly undeveloped one; C. Snouck Hurgronje's highly refined studies of Islamic mysticism (which he considered the essential part of Islam) led him to a harsh judgment of its crippling limitations; and Louis Massignon's extraordinary identification with Muslim theology, mystical passion, and poetic art kept him curiously unforgiving to Islam for what he regarded as its unregenerate revolt against the idea of incarnation. The manifest differences in their methods emerge as less important than their Orientalist consensus on Islam: latent inferiority. 6

Waardenburg's study has the additional virtue of showing how these five scholars shared a common intellectual and methodological tradition whose unity was truly international. Ever since the first Orientalist congress in 1873, scholars in the field have known each other's work and felt each other's presence very directly. What Waardenburg does not stress enough is that most of the latenineteenth-century Orientalists were bound to each other politically as well. Snouck Hurgronje went directly from his studies of Islam to being an adviser to the Dutch government on handling its Muslim Indonesian colonies; Macdonald and Massignon were widely sought after as experts on Islamic matters by colonial administrators from North Africa to Pakistan; and, as Waardenburg says (all too briefly) at one point, all five scholars shaped a coherent vision of Islam that had a wide influence on government circles throughout the Western world.7 What we must add to Waardenburg's observation is that these scholars were completing, bringing to an ultimate concrete refinement, the tendency since the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries to treat the Orient not only as a vague literary problem but-according to Masson-Oursel-as "un ferme propos d'assimiler adéquatement la valeur des langues pour pénétrer les moeurs et les pensées, pour forcer même des secrets de l'histoire."8

I spoke earlier of incorporation and assimilation of the Orient, as these activities were practiced by writers as different from each other as Dante and d'Herbelot. Clearly there is a difference between those efforts and what, by the end of the nineteenth century, had become a truly formidable European cultural, political, and material enterprise. The nineteenth-century colonial "scramble for Africa" was by no means limited to Africa, of course. Neither was the penetration of the Orient entirely a sudden, dramatic afterthought following years of scholarly study of Asia. What we must reckon with is a long and slow process of appropriation by which Europe, or the European awareness of the Orient, transformed itself from being textual and contemplative into being administrative, economic, and even military. The fundamental change was a spatial and geographical one, or rather it was a change in the quality of geographical and spatial apprehension so far as the Orient was concerned. The centuries-old designation of geographical space to the east of Europe as "Oriental" was partly political, partly doctrinal, and partly imaginative; it implied no necessary connection between actual experience of the Orient and knowledge of what is Oriental, and certainly Dante and d'Herbelot made no claims about their Oriental ideas except that they were corroborated by a long learned (and not existential) tradition. But when Lane, Renan, Burton, and the many hundreds of nineteenth-century European travelers and scholars discuss the Orient, we can immediately note a far more intimate and even proprietary attitude towards the Orient and things Oriental. In the classical and often temporally remote form in which it was reconstructed by the Orientalist, in the precisely actual form in which the modern Orient was lived in, studied, or imagined, the geographical space of the Orient was penetrated, worked over, taken hold of. The cumulative effect of decades of so sovereign a Western handling turned the Orient from alien into colonial space. What was important in the latter nineteenth century was not whether the West had penetrated and possessed the Orient, but rather how the British and French felt that they had done it.

The British writer on the Orient, and even more so the British colonial administrator, was dealing with territory about which there could be no doubt that English power was truly in the ascendant, even if the natives were on the face of it attracted to France and French modes of thought. So far as the actual space of the Orient was concerned, however, England was really there, France was not, except as a flighty temptress of the Oriental yokels. There is no better indication of this qualitative difference in spatial attitudes than to look at what Lord Cromer had to say on the subject, one that was especially dear to his heart:

The reasons why French civilisation presents a special degree of attraction to Asiatics and Levantines are plain. It is, as a matter of fact, more attractive than the civilisations of England and Germany, and, moreover, it is more easy of imitation. Compare the undemonstrative, shy Englishman, with his social exclusiveness and insular habits, with the vivacious and cosmopolitan Frenchman, who does not know what the word shyness means, and who in ten minutes is apparently on terms of intimate friendship with any casual acquaintance he may chance to make. The semi-educated Oriental does not recognise that the former has, at all events, the merit of sincerity, whilst the latter is often merely acting a part. He looks coldly on the Englishman, and rushes into the arms of the Frenchman.

The sexual innuendoes develop more or less naturally thereafter. The Frenchman is all smiles, wit, grace, and fashion; the Englishman is plodding, industrious, Baconian, precise. Cromer's case is of course based on British solidity as opposed to a French seductiveness without any real presence in Egyptian reality.

Can it be any matter for surprise [Cromer continues] that the Egyptian, with his light intellectual ballast, fails to see that some fallacy often lies at the bottom of the Frenchman's reasoning, or that he prefers the rather superficial brilliancy of the Frenchman to the plodding, unattractive industry of the Englishman or the Germ? Look, again, at the theoretical perfection of French administrative systems, at their elaborate detail, and at the provision which is apparently made to meet every possible contingency which may arise. Compare these features with the Englishman's practical systems, which lay down rules as to a few main points, and leave a mass of detail to individual discretion. The half--educated Egyptian naturally prefers the Frenchman's system, for it is to all outward appearance more perfect and more easy of application. He fails, moreover, to see that the Englishman desires to elaborate a system which will suit the facts with which he has to deal, whereas the main objection to applying French administrative procedures to Egypt is that the facts have but too often to conform to the ready-made system.

Since there is a real British presence in Egypt, and since that presence - according to Cromer-is there not so much to train the Egyptian's mind as to "form his character," it follows therefore that the ephemeral attractions of the French are those of a pretty damsel with "somewhat artificial charms," whereas those of the British belong to "a sober, elderly matron of perhaps somewhat greater moral worth, but of less pleasing outward appearance."9

Underlying Cromer's contrast between the solid British nanny and the French coquette is the sheer privilege of British emplacement in the Orient. "The facts with which he [the Englishman] has to deal" are altogether more complex and interesting, by virtue of their psion by England, than anything the mercurial French could point to. Two years after the publication of his Modern Egypt (1908), Cromer expatiated philosophically in Ancient anal Modern Imperialism. Compared -wit# Roman imperialism, with its frankly assimilationist, exploitative, and repressive policies, British imperialism seemed to Cromer to be preferable, if somewhat more wishywashy. On certain points, however, the British were clear enough, even if "after a rather dim, slipshod, but characteristically Anglo Saxon fashion," their Empire seemed undecided between "one of two bases-an extensive military occupation or the principle of nationality [for subject races]." But this indecision was academic finally, for in practice Cromer and Britain itself had opted against "the principle of nationality." And then there; were other things to be noted. One point was that the Empire was not going to be given up. Another was that intermarriage between natives and English men and women was undesirable. Third and most important, I think-Cromer conceived of British imperial presence in the Eastern colonies as having had a lasting, not to say cataclysmic, effect on the minds and societies of the East. His metaphor for expressing this effect is almost theological, so powerful in Cromer's mind was the idea of Western penetration of Oriental expanses. "The country," he says, "over which the breath of the West, heavily charged with scientific thought, has once passed, and has, in passing, left an enduring mark, can never be the same as it was before."10
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

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Part 2 of 2

In such respects as these, nonetheless, Cromer's was far from an original intelligence. What he saw and how he expressed it were common currency among his colleagues both in the imperial Establishment and in the intellectual community. This consensus is notably true in the case of Cromer's vice-regal colleagues, Curzon, Swettenham, and Lugard. Lord Curzon in particular always spoke the imperial lingua franca, and more obtrusively even than Cromer he delineated the relationship between Britain and the Orient in terms of possession, in terms of a large geographical space wholly owned by an efficient colonial master. For him, he said on one occasion, the Empire was not an "object of ambition" but "first and foremost, a great historical and political and sociological fact." In 1909 he reminded delegates to the Imperial Press Conference meeting at Oxford that "we train here and we send out to you your governors and administrators and judges, your teachers and preachers and lawyers." And this almost pedagogical view of empire had, for Curzon, a specific setting in Asia, which as he once put it, made "one pause and think."

I sometimes like to picture to myself this great Imperial fabric as a huge structure like some Tennysonian "Palace of Art," of which the foundations are in this country, where they have been laid and must be maintained by British hands, but of which the Colonies are the pillars, and high above all floats the vastness of an Asiatic dome.11

With such a Tennysonian Palace of Art in mind, Curzon and Cromer were enthusiastic members together of a departmental committee formed in 1909 to press for the creation of a school of Oriental studies. Aside from remarking wistfully that had he known the vernacular he would have been helped during his "famine tours" in India, Curzon argued for Oriental studies as part of the British responsibility to the Orient. On September 27, 1909, he told the House of Lords that our familiarity, not merely with the languages of the people of the East but with their customs, their feelings, their traditions, their history and religion, our capacity to understand what may be called the genius of the East, is the sole basis upon which we are likely to be able to maintain in the future the position we have won, and no step that can be taken to strengthen that position can be considered undeserving of the attention of His Majesty's Government or of a debate in the House of Lords.

At a Mansion House conference on the subject five years later, Curzon finally dotted the i's. Oriental studies were no intellectual luxury; they were, he said, a great Imperial obligation. In my view the creation of a school [of Oriental studies-later to become the London University School of Oriental and African Studies] like this in London is part of the necessary furniture of Empire. Those of us who, in one way or another, have spent a number of years in the East, who regard that as the happiest portion of our lives, and who think that the work that we did there, be it great or small, was the highest responsibility that can be placed upon the shoulders of Englishmen, feel that there is a gap in our national equipment which ought emphatically to be filled, and that those in the City of London who, by financial support or by any other form of active and practical assistance, take their part in filling that gap, will be rendering a patriotic duty to the Empire and promoting the cause and goodwill among mankind.12

To a very great extent Curzon's ideas about Oriental studies derive logically from a good century of British utilitarian administration of and philosophy about the Eastern colons. The influence of Bentham and the Mills on British rule in the Orient (and India particularly) was considerable, and was effective is doing away with too much regulation and innovation; instead, as Eric stokes has convincingly shown, utilitarianism combined with the legacies of liberalism and evangelicalism as philosophies of British rule in the East stressed the rational importance of a strong executive armed with various legal and penal codes, a system of doctrines on such matters as frontiers and land rents, and everywhere an irreducible supervisory imperial authority.13 The cornerstone of the whole system was a constantly refined knowledge of the Orient, so that as traditional societies hastened forward and became modern commercial societies, there would be no loss of paternal British control, and no loss of revenue either. However, when Curzon referred somewhat inelegantly to Oriental studies as "the necessary furniture of Empire," he was putting into a static image the transactions by which Englishmen and natives conducted their business and kept their places. From the days of Sir William Jones the Orient had been both what Britain ruled and what Britain knew about it: the coincidence between geography, knowledge, and power, with Britain always in the master's place, was complete. To have said, as Curzon once did, that "the East is a University in which the scholar never takes his degree" was another way of saying that the East required one's presence there more or less forever.14

But then there were the other European powers, France and Russia among them, that made the British presence always a (perhaps marginally) threatened one. Curzon was certainly aware that all the major Western powers felt towards the world as Britain did. The transformation of geography from "dull and pedantic"Curzon's phrase for what had now dropped out of geography as an academic subject-into "the most cosmopolitan of all sciences" argued exactly that new Western and widespread predilection. Not for nothing did Curzon in 1912 tell the Geographical Society, of which he was president, that an absolute revolution has occurred, not merely in the manner and methods of teaching geography, but in the estimation in which it is held by public opinion. Nowadays we regard geographical knowledge as an essential part of knowledge in general. By the aid of geography, and in no other way, do was understand the action of great natural forces, the distribution of population, the growth of commerce, the expansion of frontiers, tape development of States, the splendid achievements of less air in its various manifestations.

We recognize geography as the handmaid of history … Geography, too, is a sister science to economies and politics; and to any of us who have attempted to study geography it is known that the moment you diverge from the geographical field you find yourself crossing the frontiers of geology, zoology, ethnology, chemistry, physics, and almost all the kindred sciences. Therefore we are justified in saying that geography is one of the first and foremost of the sciences: that it is part of the equipment that is necessary for a proper conception of citizenship, and is an indispensable adjunct to the production of a public man.15

Geography was essentially the material underpinning for knowledge about the Orient. All the latent and unchanging characteristics of the Orient stood upon, were rooted in, its geography. Thus on the one hand the geographical Orient nourished its inhabitants, guaranteed their characteristics, and defined their specificity; on the other hand, the geographical Orient solicited the West's attention, even as-by one of those paradoxes revealed so frequently by organized knowledge-East was East and West was West. The cosmopolitanism of geography was, in Curzon's mind, its universal importance to the whole of the West, whose relationship to the rest of the world was one of frank covetousness. Yet geographical appetite could also take on the moral neutrality of an epistemological impulse to find out, to settle upon, to uncover-as when in Heart of Darkness Marlow confesses to having a passion for maps.

I would look for hours at South America, or Africa, or Australia, and lose myself in all the glories of exploration. At that time there were many blank spaces on the earth, and when I saw one that looked particularly inviting on a map (but they all look that) I would put my finger on it and say, When I grow up I will go there.16

Seventy years or so before Marlow said this, it did not trouble Lamartine that what on a map was a blank space was inhabited by natives; nor, theoretically, had there been any reservation in the mind of Emer de Vattel, the Swiss-Prussian authority on international law, when in 1758 he invited European states to take possession of territory inhabited only by mere wandering tribes.17 The important thing was to dignify simple conquest with an idea, to turn the appetite for more geographical space into a theory about the special relationship between geography on the one hand and civilized or uncivilized peoples on the other. But to these rationalizations there was also a distinctively French contribution.

By the end of the nineteenth century, political and intellectual circumstances coincided sufficiently in France to make geography, and geographical speculation (in both senses of that word), an attractive national pastime. The general climate of opinion in Europe was propitious; certainly the successes of British imperialism spoke loudly enough for themselves. However, Britain always seemed to France and to French thinkers on the subject to block even a relatively successful French imperial role in the Orient. Before the Franco-Prussian War there was a good deal of wishful political thinking about the Orient, and it was not confined to poets and novelists. Here, for instance, is Saint-Marc Girardin writing in the Revue des Deux Mondes on March 15, 1862:

La France a beaucoup a faire en Orient, parce que l'Orient attend beaucoup d'elle. 11 lui demande meme plus qu'elle ne peut faire; il lui remettrait volontiers le soin entier de son avenir, ce qui serait pour la France et pour I'Orient un grand danger: pour la France, parce que, disposee a prendre en mains la cause des populations souffrantes, elle se charge le plus souvent de plus d'obligations qu'elle n'en pent remplir; pour I'Orient parce que tout peuple qui attend sa destinee de l'etranger n'a jamais qu'une condition precaire et qu'il n'y a de salut pour les nations que celui qu'elles se font ellesmemes.18

Of such views as this Disraeli would doubtless have said, as he often did, that France had only "sentimental interests" in Syria (which is the "Orient" of which Girardin was writing). The fiction of "populations souffrantes" had of course been used by Napoleon when he appealed to the Egyptians on their behalf against the Turks and for Islam. During the thirties, forties, fifties, and sixties the suffering populations of the Orient were limited to the Christian minorities in Syria. And there was no record of "I'Orient" appealing to France for its salvation. It would have been altogether more truthful to say that Britain stood in France's way in the Orient, for even if France genuinely felt a sense of obligation to the Orient (and there were some Frenchmen who did), there was very little France could do to get between Britain and the huge land mast it commanded from India to the Mediterranean.

Among the most remarkable consequences of the War of 1870 in France were a tremendous efflorescence of geographical societies and a powerfully renewed demand for territorial acquisition. At the end of 1871 the Societe de geographie de Paris declared itself no longer confined to "scientific speculation." It urged the citizenry not to "forget that our former preponderance was contested from the day we ceased to compete ...in the conquests of civilization over barbarism." Guillaume Depping, a leader of what has come to be called the geographical movement, asserted in 1881 that during the 1870 war "it was the schoolmaster who triumphed," meaning that the real triumphs were those of Prussian scientific geography over French strategic sloppiness. The governments Journal ofciel sponsored issue after issue centered on the virtues (and profits) of geographical exploration and colonial adventure; a citizen could learn in one issue from de Lesseps of "the opportunities in Africa" and from Garnier of "the exploration of the Blue River." Scientific geography soon gave way to "commercial geography," as the connection between national pride in scientific and civilizational achievement and the fairly rudimentary profit motive was urged, to be channeled into support for colonial acquisition. In the words of one enthusiast, "The geographical societies are formed to break the fatal charm that holds us enchained to our shores." In aid of this liberating quest all sorts of schemes were spun out, including the enlisting of Jules Verne-- whose "unbelievable success," as it was called, ostensibly displayed the scientific mind at a very high peak of ratiocination-to head "a round-the- world campaign of scientific exploration," and a plan for creating a vast new sea just south of the North African coast, as well as a project for "binding" Algeria to Senegal by railroad-"a ribbon of steel," as the projectors called it.19

Much of the expansionist fervor in France during the last third of the nineteenth century was generated out of an explicit wish to compensate for the Prussian victory in 1870-1871 and, no less important, the desire to match British imperial achievements. So powerful was the latter desire, and out of so long a tradition of Anglo-French rivalry in the Orient did it derive, that France seemed literally haunted by Britain, anxious in all things connected with the Orient to catch up with and emulate the British. When in the late 1870s, the Societe academique indo-chinoise reformulated its goals, it found it important to "bring Indochina into the domain of Orientalism." Why? In order to turn Cochin China into a "French India." The absence of substantial colonial holdings was blamed by military men for that combination of military and commercial weakness in the war with Prussia, to say nothing of long-standing and pronounced colonial inferiority compared with Britain.

The "power of expansion of the Western races," argued a leading geographer, La Ronciere Le Noury, "its superior causes, its elements, its influences on human destinies, will be a beautiful study for future historians." Yet only if the white races indulged their taste for voyaging-a mark of their intellectual supremacy-could colonial expansion occur.20

From such theses as this came the commonly held view of the Orient as a geographical space to be cultivated, harvested, and guarded. The images of agricultural care for and those of frank sexual attention to the Orient proliferated accordingly. Here is a typical effusion by Gabriel Charmes, writing in 1880:

On that day when we shall be no longer in the Orient, and when other great European powers will be there, all will be at an end for our commerce in the Mediterranean, for our future in Asia, for the traffic of our southern ports. One of the most fruitful sources of our national wealth will be dried up. (Emphasis added)

Another thinker, Leroy-Beaulieu, elaborated this philosophy still further:

A society colonizes, when itself having reached a high degree of maturity and of strength, it procreates, it protects, it places in good conditions of development, and it brings to virility a new society to which it has given birth. Colonization is one of the most complex and delicate phenomena of social physiology.

This equation of self-reproduction with colonization led LeroyBeaulieu to the somewhat sinister idea that whatever is lively in a modern society is "magnified by this pouring out of its exuberant activity on the outside." Therefore, he said,

Colonization is the expansive force of a people; it is its power of reproduction; it is its enlargement and its multiplication through space; it is the subjection of the universe or a vast part of it to that people's language, customs, ideas, and laws.21

The point here is that the space of weaker or underdeveloped regions like the Orient was viewed as something inviting French interest, penetration, insemination-in short, colonization. Geographical conceptions, literally and figuratively, did away with the discrete entities held in by borders and frontiers. No less than entrepreneurial visionaries like de Lesseps, whose plan was to liberate the Orient and the Occident from their geographical bonds,

French scholars, administrators, geographers, and commercial agents poured out their exuberant activity onto the fairly supine, feminine Orient. There were the geographical societies, whose number and membership outdid those of all Europe by a factor of two; there were such powerful organizations as the Comite de l'Asie francaise and the Comite d'Orient; there were the learned societies, chief among them the Societe asiatique, with its organization and membership firmly embedded in the universities, the institutes, and the government. Each in its own way made French interests in the Orient more real, more substantial. Almost an entire century of what now seemed passive study of the Orient had had to end, as France faced up to its transnational responsibilities during the last two decades of the nineteenth century.

In the only part of the Orient where British and French interests literally overlapped, the territory of the now hopelessly ill Ottoman Empire, the two antagonists managed their conflict with an almost perfect and characteristic consistency. Britain was in Egypt and Mesopotamia; through a series of quasi-fictional treaties with local (and powerless) chiefs it controlled the Red Sea, the Persian Gulf, and the Suez Canal, as well as most of the intervening land mass between the Mediterranean and India. France, on the other hand, seemed fated to hover over the Orient, descending once in a while to carry out schemes that repeated de Lesseps's success with the canal; for the most part these schemes were railroad projects, such as the one planned across more or less British territory, the Syrian-Mesopotamian line. In addition France saw itself as the protector of Christian minorities--- Maronites, Chaldeans, Nestorians. Yet together, Britain and France were agreed in principle on the necessity, when the time came, for the partition of Asiatic Turkey. Both before and during World War I secret diplomacy was bent on carving up the Near Orient first into spheres of influence, then into mandated (or occupied) territories. In France, much of the expansionist sentiment formed during the heyday of the geographical movement focused itself on plans to partition Asiatic Turkey, so much so that in Paris in 1914 "a spectacular press campaign was launched" to this end.22 In England numerous committees were empowered to study and recommend policy on the best ways of dividing up the Orient. Out of such commissions as the Bunsen Committee would come the joint Anglo-French teams of which the most famous was the one headed by Mark Sykes and Georges Picot. Equitable division of geographical space was the rule of these plans, which were deliberate attempts also at calming Anglo-French rivalry. For, as - Sykes put it in a memorandum,

it was clear ...that an Arab rising was sooner or later to take place, and that the French and ourselves ought to be on better terms if the rising was not to be a curse instead of a blessing...23

The animosities remained. And to them was added the irritant provided by the Wilsonian program for national self-determination, which, as Sykes himself was to note, seemed to invalidate the whole skeleton of colonial and partitionary schemes arrived at jointly between the Powers. It would be out of place here to discuss the entire labyrinthine and deeply controversial history of the Near Orient in the early twentieth century, as its fate was being decided between the Powers, the native dynasties, the various nationalist parties and movements, the Zionists. What matters more immediately is the peculiar epistemological framework through which the Orient was seen, and out of which the Powers acted. For despite their differences, the British and the French saw the Orient as a geographical-and cultural, political, demographical, sociological, and historical-entity over whose destiny they believed themselves to have traditional entitlement. The Orient to them was no sudden discovery, no mere historical accident, but an area to the east of Europe whose principal worth was uniformly defined in terms of Europe, more particularly in terms specifically claiming for Europe-European science, scholarship, understanding, and administration -- the credit for having made the Orient what it was now. And this had been the achievement-inadvertent or not is beside the point-of modern Orientalism.

There were two principal methods by which Orientalism delivered the Orient to the West in the early twentieth century. One was by means of the disseminative capacities of modern learning, its diffusive apparatus in the learned professions, the universities, the professional societies, the explorational and geographical organizations,the publishing industry. All these, as we have seen, built upon the prestigious authority of the pioneering scholars, travelers, and poets, whose cumulative vision had shaped a quintessential Orient; the doctrinal-or doxological - manifestation of such an Orient is what I have been calling here latent Orientalism. So far as anyone wishing to make a statement of any consequence about the Orient was concerned, latent Orientalism supplied him with an enunciative capacity that could be used, or rather mobilized, and turned into sensible discourse for the concrete occasion at hand. Thus when Balfour spoke about the Oriental to the House of Commons in 1910, he must surely have had in mind those enunciative capacities in the current and acceptably rational language of his time, by which something called an "Oriental" could be named and talked about without danger of too much obscurity. But like all enunciative capacities and the discourses they enable, latent Orientalism was profoundly conservative-dedicated, that is, to its self-preservation. Transmitted from one generation to another, it was a part of the culture, as much a language about a part of reality as geometry or physics. Orientalism staked its existence, not upon its openness, its receptivity to the Orient, but rather on its internal, repetitious consistency about its constitutive will-to-power over the Orient. In such a way Orientalism was able to survive revolutions, world wars, and the literal dismemberment of empires.

The second method by which Orientalism delivered the Orient to the West was the result of an important convergence. For decades the Orientalists had spoken about the Orient, they had translated texts, they had explained civilizations, religions, dynasties, cultures, mentalities-as academic objects, screened off from Europe by virtue of their inimitable foreignness. The Orientalist was an expert, like Renan or Lane, whose job in society was to interpret the Orient for his compatriots. The relation between Orientalist and Orient was essentially hermeneutical: standing before a distant, barely intelligible civilization or cultural monument, the Orientalist scholar reduced the obscurity by translating, sympathetically portraying, inwardly grasping the hard-to-reach object. Yet the Orientalist remained outside the Orient, which, however much it was made to appear intelligible, remained beyond the Occident. This cultural, temporal, and geographical distance was expressed in metaphors of depth, secrecy, and sexual promise: phrases like "the veils of an Eastern bride" or "the inscrutable Orient" passed into the common language.

Yet the distance between Orient and Occident was, almost paradoxically, in the process of being reduced throughout the nineteenth century. As the commercial, political, and other existential encounters between East and West increased (in ways we have been discussing all along), a tension developed between the dogmas of latent Orientalism, with its support in studies of the "classical" Orient, and the descriptions of a present, modern, manifest Orient articulated by travelers, pilgrims, statesmen, and the like. At some moment impossible to determine precisely, the tension caused a convergence of the two types of Orientalism. Probably -- and this is only a speculation -- the convergence occurred when Orientalists, beginning with Sacy, undertook to advise governments on what the modern Orient was all about. Here the role of the specially trained and equipped expert took on an added dimension: the Orientalist could be regarded as the special agent of Western power as it attempted policy vis-a-vis the Orient. Every learned (and not so learned) European traveler in the Orient felt himself to be a representative Westerner who had gotten beneath the films of obscurity. This is obviously true of Burton, Lane, Doughty, Flaubert, and the other major figures I have been discussing.

The discoveries of Westerners about the manifest and modern Orient acquired a pressing urgency as Western territorial acquisition in the Orient increased. Thus what the scholarly Orientalist defined as the "essential" Orient was sometimes contradicted, but in many cases was confirmed, when the Orient became an actual administrative obligation. Certainly Cromer's theories about the Oriental-theories acquired from the traditional Orientalist archive -were vindicated plentifully as he ruled millions of Orientals in actual fact. This was no less true of the French experience in Syria, North Africa, and elsewhere in the French colonies, such as they were. But at no time did the convergence between latent Orientalist doctrine and manifest Orientalist experience occur more dramatically than when, as a result of World War I, Asiatic Turkey was being surveyed by Britain and France for its dismemberment. There, laid out on an operating table for surgery, was the Sick Man of Europe, revealed in all his weakness, characteristics, and topographical outline.

The Orientalist, with his special knowledge, played an inestimably important part in this surgery. Already there had been intimations of his crucial role as a kind of secret agent inside the Orient when the British scholar Edward Henry Palmer was sent to the Sinai in 1882 to gauge anti- British sentiment and its possible enlistment on behalf of the Arabi revolt. Palmer was killed in the process, but he was only the most unsuccessful of the many who performed similar services for the Empire, now a serious and exacting business entrusted in part to the regional "expert." Not for nothing was another Orientalist, D. G. Hogarth, author of the famous account of the exploration of Arabia aptly titled The Penetration of Arabia (1904),24 made the head of the Arab Bureau in Cairo during World War I. And neither was it by accident that men and women like Gertrude Bell, T. E. Lawrence, and St. John Philby, Oriental experts all, posted to the Orient as agents of empire, friends of the Orient, formulators of policy alternatives because of their intimate and expert knowledge of the Orient and of Orientals. They formed a "band"-as Lawrence called it oncebound together by contradictory notions and personal similarities: great individuality, sympathy and intuitive identification with the Orient, a jealously preserved sense of personal mission in the Orient, cultivated eccentricity, a final disapproval of the Orient. For them all the Orient was their direct, peculiar experience of it. In them Orientalism and an effective praxis for handling the Orient received their final European form, before the Empire disappeared and passed its legacy to other candidates for the role of dominant power.

Such individualists as these were not academics. We shall soon see that they were the beneficiaries of the academic study of the Orient, without in any sense belonging to the official and professional company of Orientalist scholars. Their role, however, was not to scant academic Orientalism, nor to subvert it, but rather to make it effective. In their genealogy were people like Lane and Burton, as much for their encyclopedic autodidacticism as for the accurate, the quasi-scholarly knowledge of the Orient they had obviously deployed when dealing with or writing about Orientals. For the curricular study of the Orient they substituted a sort of elaboration of latent Orientalism, which was easily available to them in the imperial culture of their epoch. Their scholarly frame of reference, such as it was, was fashioned by people like William Muir, Anthony Bevan, D. S. Margoliouth, Charles Lyall, E. G. Browne, R. A. Nicholson, Guy Le Strange, E. D. Ross, and Thomas Arnold, who also followed directly in the line of descent from Lane. Their imaginative perspectives were provided principally by their illustrious contemporary Rudyard Kipling, who had sung so memorably of holding "dominion over palm and pine."

The difference between Britain and France in such matters was perfectly consistent with the history of each nation in the Orient: the British were there; the French lamented the loss of India and the intervening territories. By the end of the century, Syria had become the main focus of French activity, but even there it was a matter of common consensus that the French could not match the British either in quality of personnel or in degree of political influence. The Anglo-French competition over the Ottoman spoils was felt even on the field of battle in the Hejaz, in Syria, in Mesopotamiabut in all these places, as astute men like Edmond Bremond noted, the French Orientalists and local experts were outclassed in brilliance and tactical maneuvering by their British counterparts.25 Except for an occasional genius like Louis Massignon, there were no French Lawrences or Sykeses or Bells. But there were determined imperialists like Etienne Flandin and Franklin-Bouillon. Lecturing to the Paris Alliance francaise in 1913, the Comte de Cressaty, a vociferous imperialist, proclaimed Syria as France's own Orient, the site of French political, moral, and economic interests-interests, he added, that had to be defended during this "age des envahissants imperialistes"; and yet Cressaty noted that even with French commercial and industrial firms in the Orient, with by far the largest number of native students enrolled in French schools, France was invariably being pushed around in the Orient, threatened not only by Britain but by Austria, Germany, and Russia. If France was to continue to prevent "le retour de l'Islam," it had better take hold of the Orient: this was an argument proposed by Cressaty and seconded by Senator Paul Doumer.26 These views were repeated on numerous occasions, and indeed France did well by itself in North Africa and in Syria after World War I, but the special, concrete management of emerging Oriental populations and theoretically independent territories with which the British always credited themselves was something the French felt had eluded them. Ultimately, perhaps, the difference one always feels between modern British and modern French Orientalism is a stylistic one; the import of the generalizations about Orient and Orientals, the sense of distinction preserved between Orient and Occident, the desirability of Occidental dominance over the Orient-all these are the same in both traditions. For of the many elements making up what we customarily call "expertise," style, which is the result of specific worldly circumstances being molded by tradition, institutions, will, and intelligence into formal articulation, is one of the most manifest. It is to this determinant, to this perceptible and modernized refinement in early-twentieth-century Orientalism in Britain and France, that we must now turn.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:08 am

Part 1 of 2

II- Style, Expertise, Vision: Orientalism's Worldliness

As he appears in several poems, in novels like Kim, and in too many catchphrases to be an ironic fiction, Kipling's White Man, as an idea, a persona, a style of being, seems to have served many Britishers while they were abroad. The actual color of their skin set them off dramatically and reassuringly from the sea of natives, but for the Britisher who circulated amongst Indians, Africans, or Arabs there was also the certain knowledge that he belonged to, and could draw upon the empirical and spiritual reserves of, a long tradition of executive responsibility towards the colored races. It was of this tradition, its glories and difficulties, that Kipling wrote when he celebrated the "road" taken by White Men in the colonies:

Now, this is the road that the White Men tread
When they go to clean a land
Iron underfoot and the vine overhead
And the deep on either hand.
We have trod that road-and a wet and windy road-
Our chosen star for guide.
Oh, well for the world when the
White Men tread
Their highway side by side!27


"Cleaning a land" is best done by White Men in delicate concert with each other, an allusion to the present dangers of European rivalry in the colonies; for failing in the attempt to coordinate policy, Kipling's White Men are quite prepared to go to war: "Freedom for ourselves and freedom for our sons/And, failing freedom, War." Behind the White Man's mask of amiable leadership there is always the express willingness to use force, to kill and be killed. What dignifies his mission is some sense of intellectual dedication; he is a White Man, but not for mere profit, since his "chosen star" presumably sits far above earthly gain. Certainly many White Men often wondered what it was they fought for on that "wet and windy road," and certainly a great number of them must have been puzzled as to how the color of their skins gave them superior ontological status plus great power over much of the inhabited world.

Yet in the end, being a White Man, for Kipling and for those whose perceptions and rhetoric he influenced, was a self-confirming business. One became a White Man because one was a White Man; more important, "drinking that cup," living that unalterable destiny in "the White Man's day," left one little time for idle speculation on origins, causes, historical logic.

Being a White Man was therefore an idea and a reality. It involved a reasoned position towards both the white and the nonwhite worlds. It meant -- in the colonies--speaking in a certain way, behaving according to a code of regulations, and even feeling certain things and not others. It meant specific judgments, evaluations, gestures. It was a form of authority before which nonwhites, and even whites themselves, were expected to bend. In the institutional forms it took (colonial governments, consular corps, commercial establishments) it was an agency for the expression, diffusion, and implementation of policy towards the world, and within this agency, although a certain personal latitude was allowed, the impersonal communal idea of being a White Man ruled. Being a White Man, in short, was a very concrete manner of being-in-the-world, a way of taking hold of reality, language, and thought. It made a specific style possible.

Kipling himself could not merely have happened; the same is true of his White Man. Such ideas and their authors emerge out of complex historical and cultural circumstances, at least two of which have much in common with the history of Orientalism in the nineteenth century. One of them is the culturally sanctioned habit of deploying large generalizations by which reality is divided into various collectives: languages, races, types, colors, mentalities, each category being not so much a neutral designation as an evaluative interpretation. Underlying these categories is the rigidly binomial opposition of "ours" and "theirs," with the former always encroaching upon the latter (even to the point of making "theirs" exclusively a function of "ours"). This opposition was reinforced not only by anthropology, linguistics, and history but also, of course, by the Darwinian theses on survival and natural selection, and-no less decisive-by the rhetoric of high cultural humanism. What gave writers like Renan and Arnold the right to generalities about race was the official character of their formed cultural literacy. "Our" values were (let us say) liberal, humane, correct; they were supported by the tradition of belles-lettres, informed scholarship, rational inquiry; as Europeans (and white men) "we" shared in them every time their virtues were extolled. Nevertheless, the human partnerships formed by reiterated cultural values excluded as much as they included. For every idea about "our" art spoken for by Arnold, Ruskin, Mill, Newman, Carlyle, Renan, Gobineau, or Comte, another link in the chain binding "us" together was formed while another outsider was banished. Even if this is always the result of such rhetoric, wherever and whenever it occurs, we must remember that for nineteenth-century Europe an imposing edifice of learning and culture was built, so to speak, in the face of actual outsiders (the colonies, the poor, the delinquent), whose role in the culture was to give definition to what they were constitutionally unsuited for.28

The other circumstance common to the creation of the White Man and Orientalism is the "field" commanded by each, as well as the sense that such a field entails peculiar modes, even rituals, of behavior, learning, and possession. Only an Occidental could speak of Orientals, for example, just as it was the White Man who could designate and name the coloreds, or nonwhites. Every statement made by Orientalists or White Men (who were usually interchangeable) conveyed a sense of the irreducible distance separating white from colored, or Occidental from Oriental; moreover, behind each statement there resonated the tradition of experience, learning, and education that kept the Oriental-colored to his position of object studied by the Occidental-white, instead of vice versa. Where one was in. a position of power-as Cromer was, for example-the Oriental belonged to the system of rule whose principle was simply to make sure that no Oriental was ever allowed to be independent and rule himself. The premise there was that since the Orientals were ignorant of self-government, they had better be kept that way for their own good.

Since the White Man, like the Orientalist, lived very close to the line of tension keeping the coloreds at bay, he felt it incumbent on him readily to define and redefine the domain he surveyed. Passages of narrative description regularly alternate with passages of rearticulated definition and judgment that disrupt the narrative; this is a characteristic style of the writing produced by Oriental experts who operated using Kipling's White Man as a mask. Here is T. E. Lawrence, writing to V. W. Richards in 1918:

…the Arab appealed to my imagination. It is the old, old civilisation, which has refined itself clear of household gods, and half the trappings which ours hastens to assume. The gospel of bareness in materials is a good one, and it involves apparently a sort of moral bareness too. They think for the moment, and endeavour to slip through life without turning corners or climbing hills. In part it is a mental and moral fatigue, a race trained out, and to avoid difficulties they have to jettison so much that we think honorable and grave: and yet without in any way sharing their point of view, I think I can understand it enough to look at myself and other foreigners from their direction, and without condemning it. I know I am a stranger to them, and always will be; but I cannot believe them worse, any more than I could change to their ways.29

A similar perspective, however different the subject under discussion may seem to be, is found in these remarks by Gertrude Bell:

How many thousand years this state of things has lasted [namely, that Arabs live in "a state of war"], those who shall read the earliest records of the inner desert will tell us, for it goes back to the first of them, but in all the centuries the Arab has bought no wisdom from experience. He is never safe, and yet he behaves as though security were his daily bread.30

To which, as a gloss, we should add her further observation, this time about life in Damascus:

I begin to see dimly what the civilisation of a great Eastern city means, how they live, what they think; and I have got on to terms with them. I believe the fact of my being English is a great help.... We have gone up in the world since five years ago. The difference is very marked. I think it is due to the success of our government in Egypt to a great extent.... The defeat of Russia stands for a great deal, and my impression is that the vigorous policy of Lord Curzon in the Persian Gulf and on the India frontier stands for a great deal more. No one who does not know the East can realise how it all hangs together. It is scarcely an exaggeration to say that if the English mission had been turned back from the gates of Kabul, the English tourist would be frowned upon in the streets of Damascus.31

In such statements as these, we note immediately that "the Arab" or "Arabs" have an aura of apartness, definiteness, and collective self-consistency such as to wipe out any traces of individual Arabs with narratable life histories. What appealed to Lawrence's imagination was the clarity of the Arab, both as an image and as a supposed philosophy (or attitude) towards life: in both cases what Lawrence fastens on is the Arab as if seen from the cleansing perspective of one not an Arab, and one for whom such unselfconscious primitive simplicity as the Arab possesses is something defined by the observer, in this case the White Man. Yet Arab refinement, which in its essentials corresponds to Yeats's visions of Byzantium where

Flames that no faggot feeds, flint nor steel has lit,
Nor storm disturbs, flames begotten of flame,
Where blood-begotten spirits come
And all complexities of fury leave.32


is associated with Arab perdurability, as if the Arab had not been subject to the ordinary processes of history. Paradoxically, the Arab seems to Lawrence to have exhausted himself in his very temporal persistence. The enormous age of Arab civilization has thus served to refine the Arab down to his quintessential attributes, and to tire him out morally in the process. What we are left with is Bell's Arab: centuries of experience and no wisdom. As a collective entity, then, the Arab accumulates no existential or even semantical thickness. He remains the same, except for the exhausting refinements mentioned by Lawrence, from one end to the other of "the records of the inner desert." We are to assume that if an Arab feels joy, if he is sad at the death of his child or parent, if he has a sense of the injustices of political tyranny, then those experiences are necessarily subordinate to the sheer, unadorned, and persistent fact of being an Arab.

The primitiveness of such a state exists simultaneously on at least two levels: one, in the definition, which is reductive; and two (according to Lawrence and Bell), in reality. This absolute coincidence was itself no simple coincidence. For one, it could only have been made from the outside by virtue of a vocabulary and epistemological instruments designed both to get to the heart of things and to avoid the distractions of accident, circumstance, or experience. For another, the coincidence was a fact uniquely the result of method, tradition, and politics all working together. Each in a sense obliterated the distinctions between the type--the Oriental, the Semite, the Arab, the Orient-and ordinary human reality, Yeats's "uncontrollable mystery on the bestial floor," in which all human beings live. The scholarly investigator took a type marked "Oriental" for the same thing as any individual Oriental he might encounter. Years of tradition had encrusted discourse about such matters as the Semitic or Oriental spirit with some legitimacy. And political good sense taught, in Bell's marvelous phrase, that in the East "it all hangs together." Primitiveness therefore inhered in the Orient, was the Orient, an idea to which anyone dealing with or writing about the Orient had to return, as if to a touchstone outlasting time or experience.

There is an excellent way of understanding all this as it applied to the white agents, experts, and advisers for the Orient. What mattered to Lawrence and Bell was that their references to Arabs or Orientals belonged to a recognizable, and authoritative, convention of formulation, one that was able to subordinate detail to it. But from where, more particularly, did "the Arab," "the Semite," or "the Oriental" come?

We have remarked how, during the nineteenth century in such writers as Renan, Lane, Flaubert, Caussin de Perceval, Marx, and Lamartine, a generalization about "the Orient" drew its power from the presumed representativeness of everything Oriental; each particle of the Orient told of its Orientalness, so much so that the attribute of being Oriental overrode any countervailing instance.An Oriental man was first an Oriental and only second a man. Such radical typing was naturally reinforced by sciences (or discourses, as I prefer to call them) that took a backward and downward direction towards the species category, which was supposed also to be an ontogenetic explanation for every member of the species. Thus within broad, semipopular designations such as "Oriental" there were some more scientifically valid distinctions being made; most of these were based principally on language types - e.g., Semitic, Dravidic, Hamitic-but they were quickly able to acquire anthropological, psychological, biological, and cultural evidence in their support. Renan's "Semitic," as an instance, was a linguistic generalization which in Renan's hands could add to itself all sorts of parallel ideas from anatomy, history, anthropology, and even geology. "Semitic" could then be employed not only as a simple description or designation; it could be applied to any complex of historical and political events in order to pare them down to a nucleus both antecedent to and inherent in them. "Semitic," therefore, was a transtemporal, transindividual category, purporting to predict every discrete act of "Semitic" behavior on the basis of some pre-existing "Semitic" essence, and aiming as well to interpret all aspects of human life and activity in terms of some common "Semitic" element.

The peculiar hold on late-nineteenth-century liberal European culture of such relatively punitive ideas will seem mysterious unless it is remembered that the appeal of sciences like linguistics, anthropology, and biology was that they were empirical, and by no means speculative or idealistic. Renan's Semitic, like Bopp's Indo-European, was a constructed object, it is true, but it was considered logical and inevitable as a protoform, given the scientifically apprehendable and empirically analyzable data of specific Semitic languages. Thus, in trying to formulate a prototypical and primitive linguistic type (as well as a cultural, psychological, and historical one), there was also an "attempt to define a primary human potential,33 out of which completely specific instances of behavior uniformly derived. Now this attempt would have been impossible had it not also been believed-in classical empiricist terms-that mind and body were interdependent realities, both determined originally by a given set of geographical, biological, and quasihistorical conditions.34 From this set, which was not available to the native for discovery or introspection, there was no subsequent escape. The antiquarian bias of Orientalists was supported by these empiricist ideas. In all their studies of "classical" Islam, Buddhism, or Zoroastrianism they felt themselves, as George Eliot's Dr. Casaubon confesses, to be acting "like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be, in spite of ruin and confusing changes." 35

Were these theses about linguistic, civilizational, and finally racial characteristics merely one side of an academic debate amongst European scientists and scholars, we might dismiss them as furnishing material for an unimportant closet drama. The point is, however, that both the terms of the debate and the debate itself had 'very wide circulation; in late-nineteenth-century culture, as Lionel Trilling has said, "racial theory, stimulated by a rising nationalism and a spreading imperialism, supported by an incomplete and mal-assimilated science, was almost undisputed."[36] Race theory, ideas about primitive origins and primitive classifications, modern decadence, the progress of civilization, the destiny of the white (or Aryan) races, the need for colonial territories-all these were elements in the peculiar amalgam of science, politics, and culture whose drift, almost without exception, was always to raise Europe or a European race to dominion over non-European portions of mankind. There was general agreement too that, according to a strangely transformed variety of Darwinism sanctioned by Darwin himself, the modern Orientals were degraded remnants of a former greatness; the ancient, or "classical," civilizations of the Orient were perceivable through the disorders of present decadence, but only (a) because a white specialist, with highly refined scientific techniques could do the sifting and reconstructing, and (b) because a vocabulary of sweeping generalities (the Semites, the Aryans, the Orientals) referred not to a set of fictions but rather to a whole array of seemingly objective and agreed-upon distinctions. Thus a remark about what Orientals were and were not capable of was supported by biological "truths" such as those spelled out in P. Charles Michel's "A Biological View of Our Foreign Policy" (1896), in Thomas Henry Huxley's The Struggle for Existence in Human Society (1888), Benjamin Kidd's Social Evolution (1894), John B. Crozier's History of Intellectual Development on the Lines of Modern Evolution (1897-1901), and Charles Harvey's The Biology of British Politics (1904)37. It was assumed that if languages were as distinct from each other as the linguists said they were, then too the language users-their minds, cultures, potentials, and even their bodies-were different in similar ways. And these distinctions had the force of ontological, empirical truth behind them, together with the convincing demonstration of such truth in studies of origins, development, character, and destiny.

The point to be emphasized is that this truth about the distinctive differences between races, civilizations, and languages was (or pretended to be) radical and ineradicable. It went to the bottom of things, it asserted that there was no escape from origins and the types these origins enabled; it set the real boundaries between human beings, on which races, nations, and civilizations were constructed; it ford vision away from common, as well as plural, human realities like joy, suffering, political organization, forcing attention instead in the downward and backward direction of immutable origins. A scientist could no more escape such origins in his research than an Oriental could escape "the Semites" or "the Arabs" or "the Indians" from which his present reality -- debased, colonized, backward -- excluded him, except for the white researcher's didactic presentation.

The profession of specialized research conferred unique privileges. We recall that Lane could appear to be an Oriental and yet retain his scholarly detachment. The Orientals he studied became in fact his Orientals, for he saw them not only as actual people but as monumentalized objects in his account of them. This double perspective encouraged a sort of structured irony. On the one hand, there was a collection of people living in the present; on the other hand, these people-as the subject of study -- became "the Egyptians," "the Muslims," or "the Orientals." Only the scholar could see, and manipulate, the discrepancy between the two levels. The tendency of the former was always towards greater variety, yet this variety was always being restrained, compressed downwards and backwards to the radical terminal of the generality. Every modern, native instance of behavior became an effusion to be sent back to the original terminal, which was strengthened in the process. This kind of "dispatching" was precisely the discipline of Orientalism.

Lane's ability to deal with the Egyptians as present beings and as validations of sui generis labels was a function both of Orientalist discipline and of generally held views about the Near Oriental Muslim or Semite. In no people more than in the Oriental Semites was it possible to see the present and the origin together. The Jews and the Muslims, as subjects of Orientalist study, were readily understandable in view of their primitive origins: this was (and to a certain extent still is) the cornerstone of morn Orientalism. Renan had called the Semites an instance of arrested development, and functionally speaking this came to mean that for the Orientalist no modern Semite, however much he may have believed himself to be morn, could ever outdistance the organizing claims on him of his origins. This functional rule worked on the temporal and spatial levels together. No Semite advanced in time beyond the development of a "classical" period; no Semite could ever shake loose the pastoral, desert environment of his tent and tribe. Every manifestation of actual "Semitic" life could be, and ought to be, referred back to the primitive explanatory category of "the Semitic."

The executive power of such a system of reference, by which each discrete instance of real behavior could be reduced down and back to a small number of explanatory "original" categories, was considerable by the end of the nineteenth century. In Orientalism it was the equivalent of bureaucracy in public administration. The department was more useful than the individual file, and certainly the human being was significant principally as the occasion for a file. We must imagine the Orientalist at work in the role of a clerk putting together a very wide assortment of files in a large cabinet marked "the Semites." Aided by recent discoveries in comparative and primitive anthropology, a scholar like William Robertson Smith could group together the inhabitants of the Near Orient and write on their kinship and marriage customs, on the form and content of their religious practice. The power of Smith's work is its plainly radical demythologizing of the Semites. The nominal barriers presented to the world by Islam or Judaism are swept aside; Smith uses Semitic philology, mythology, and Orientalist scholarship "to construct.. a hypothetical picture of the development of the social systems, consistent with all the Arabian facts." If this picture succeeds in revealing the antecedent, and still influential, roots of monotheism in totemism or animal worship, then the scholar has been successful. And this, Smith says, despite the fact that "our Mohammedan sources draw a veil, as far as they can, over all details of the old heathenism."[38]

Smith's work on the Semites covered such areas as theology, literature, and history; it was done with a full awareness of work done by Orientalists (see, for instance, Smith's savage attack in 1887 on Renan's Histoire du peuple d'Israël), and more important, was intended as an aid to the understanding of the modern Semites. For Smith, I think, was a crucial link in the intellectual chain connecting the White-Man-as-expert to the modern Orient. None of the encapsulated wisdom delivered as Oriental expertise by Lawrence, Hogarth, Bell, and the others would have been possible without Smith. And even Smith the antiquarian scholar would not have had half the authority without his additional and direct experience of "the Arabian facts." It was the combination in Smith of the "grasp" of primitive categories with the ability to see general truths behind the empirical vagaries of contemporary Oriental behavior that .gave weight to his writing. Moreover, it was this special combination that adumbrated the style of expertise upon which Lawrence, Bell, and Philby built their reputation.

Like Burton and Charles Doughty before him, Smith voyaged in the Hejaz, between 1880 and 1881. Arabia has been an especially privileged place for the Orientalist, not only because Muslims treat Islam as Arabia's genius loci, but also because the Hejaz appears historically as barren and retarded as it is geographically; the Arabian desert is thus considered to be a locale about which one can make statements regarding the past in exactly the same form (and with the same content) that one makes them regarding the present. In the Hejaz you can speak about Muslims, modern Islam, and primitive Islam without bothering to make distinctions. To this vocabulary devoid of historical grounding, Smith was able to bring the cachet of additional authority provided by his Semitic studies.

What we hear in his comments is the standpoint of a scholar commanding all the antecedents for Islam, the Arabs, and Arabia. Hence:

It is characteristic of Mohammedanism that all national feeling assumes a religious aspect, inasmuch as the whole polity and social forms of a Moslem country are clothed in a religious dress. But it would be a mistake to suppose that genuine religious feeling is at the bottom of everything that justifies itself by taking a religious shape. The prejudices of the Arab have their roots in a conservatism which lies deeper than his belief in Islam. It is, indeed, a great fault of the religion of the Prophet that it lends itself so easily to the prejudices of the race among whom it was first promulgated, and that it has taken under its protection so many barbarous and obsolete ideas, which even Mohammed must have seen to have no religious worth, but which he carried over into his system in order to facilitate the propagation of his reformed doctrines. Yet many of the prejudices which seem to us most distinctively Mohammedan have no basis in the Koran.39

The "us" in the last sentence of this amazing piece of logic defines the White Man's vantage point explicitly. This allows "us" to say in the first sentence that all political and social life are "clothed" in religious dress (Islam can thus be characterized as totalitarian), then to say in the second that religion is only a cover used by Muslims (in other words, all Muslims are hypocrites essentially). In the third sentence, the claim is made that Islam-even while laying hold upon the Arab's faith-has not really reformed the Arab's basic pre-Islamic conservatism. Nor is this all. For if Islam was successful as a religion it was because it fecklessly allowed these "authentic" Arab prejudices to creep in; for such a tactic (now we see that it was a tactic on Islam's behalf) we must blame Mohammed, who was after all a ruthless crypto-Jesuit. But all this is more or less wiped out in the last sentence, when Smith assures "us" that everything he has said about Islam is invalid, since the quintessential aspects of Islam known to the West are not "Mohammedan" after all.

The principles of identity and noncontradiction clearly do not bind the Orientalist. What overrides them is Orientalist expertise, which is based on an irrefutable collective verity entirely within the Orientalist's philosophical and rhetorical grasp. Smith is able without the slightest trepidation to speak about "the jejune, practical and...constitutionally irreligious habit of the Arabic mind," Islam as a system of "organized hypocrisy," the impossibility of "feeling any respect for Moslem devotion, in which formalism and vain repetition are reduced to a system." His attacks on Islam are not relativist, for it is clear to him that Europe's and Christianity's superiority is actual, not imagined. At bottom, Smith's vision of the world is binary, as is evident in such passages as the following:

The Arabian traveller is quite different from ourselves. The labour of moving from place to place is a mere nuisance to him, he has no enjoyment in effort [as "we" do], and grumbles at hunger or fatigue with all his might [as "we" do not]. You will never persuade the Oriental that, when you get off your camel, you can have any other wish than immediately to squat on a rug and take your rest (isterih), smoking and drinking. Moreover the Arab is little impressed by scenery [but "we" are].40

"We" are this, "they" are that. Which Arab, which Islam, when, how, according to what tests: these appear to be distinctions irrelevant to Smith's scrutiny of and experience in the Hejaz. The crucial point is that everything one can know or learn about "Semites" and "Orientals" receives immediate corroboration, not merely in the archives, but directly on the ground.

Out of such a coercive framework, by which a modern "colored" man is chained irrevocably to the general truths formulated about his prototypical linguistic, anthropological, and doctrinal forebears by a white European scholar, the work of the great twentiethcentury Oriental experts in England and France derived. To this framework these experts also brought their private mythology and obsessions, which in writers like Doughty and Lawrence have been studied with considerable energy. Each-Wilfrid Scawen Blunt, Doughty, Lawrence, Bell, Hogarth, Philby, Sykes, Storrs--- believed his vision of things Oriental was individual, self-created out of some intensely personal encounter with the Orient, Islam, or the Arabs; each expressed general contempt for official knowledge held about the East. "The sun made me an Arab," Doughty wrote in Arabia Deserta, "but never warped me to Orientalism." Yet in the final analysis they all (except Blunt) expressed the traditional Western hostility to and fear of the Orient. Their views refined and gave a personal twist to the academic style of modern Orientalism, with its repertoire of grand generalizations, tendentious "science" from which there was no appeal, reductive formulae. (Doughty again, on the same page as his sneer at Orientalism: "The Semites are like to a man sitting in a cloaca to the eyes, and whose brows touch heaven."[41]) They acted, they promised, they recommended public policy on the basis of such generalizations; and, by a remarkable irony, they acquired the identity of White Orientals in their natal cultures-even as, in the instances of Doughty, Lawrence, Hogarth, and Bell, their professional involvement with the East (like Smith's) did not prevent them from despising it thoroughly. The main issue for them was preserving the Orient and Islam under the control of the White Man.

A new dialectic emerges out of this project. What is required of the Oriental expert is no longer simply "understanding": now the Orient must be made to perform, its power must be enlisted on the side of "our" values, civilization, interests, goals. Knowledge of the Orient is directly translated into activity, and the results give rise to new currents of thought and action in the Orient. But these in turn will require from the White Man a new assertion of control, this time not as the author of a scholarly work on the Orient but as the maker of contemporary history, of the Orient as urgent actuality (which, because he began it, only the expert can understand adequately). The Orientalist has now become a figure of Oriental history, indistinguishable from it, its shaper, its characteristic sign for the West. Here is the dialectic in brief:

Some Englishmen, of whom Kitchener was chief, believed that a rebellion of Arabs against Turks would enable England, while fighting Germany, simultaneously to defeat her ally Turkey. Their knowledge of the nature and power and country of the Arabic-speaking peoples made them think that the issue of such a rebellion would be happy: and indicated its character and method. So they allowed it to begin, having obtained formal assurances of help for it from the British Government. Yet none the less the rebellion of the Sherif of Mecca came to most as a surprise, and found the Allies unready. It aroused mixed feelings and made strong friends and enemies, amid whose clashing jealousies its affairs began to miscarry.42

This is Lawrence's own synopsis of chapter 1 of The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. The "knowledge" of "some Englishmen" authors a movement in the Orient whose "affairs" create a mixed progeny; the ambiguities, the half-imagined, tragicomic results of this new, revived Orient become the subject of expert writing, a new form of Orientalist discourse that presents a vision of the contemporary Orient, not as narrative, but as all complexity, problematics, betrayed hope-with the White Orientalist author as its prophetic, articulate definition.

The defeat of narrative by vision-which is true even in so patently storylike a work as The Seven Pillars-is something we have already encountered in Lane's Modern Egyptians. A conflict between a holistic view of the Orient (description, monumental record) and a narrative of events in the Orient is a conflict on several levels, involving several different issues. As the conflict is frequently renewed in the discourse of Orientalism, it is worthwhile analyzing it here briefly. The Orientalist surveys the Orient from above, with the aim of getting hold of the whole sprawling panorama before him-culture, religion, mind, history, society. To do this he must see every detail through the device of a set of reductive categories (the Semites, the Muslim mind, the Orient, and so forth). Since these categories are primarily schematic and efficient ones, and since it is more or less assumed that no Oriental can know himself the way an Orientalist can, any vision of the Orient ultimately comes to rely for its coherence and force on the person, institution, or discourse whose property it is. Any comprehensive vision is fundamentally conservative, and we have noted how in the history of ideas about the Near Orient in the West these ideas have maintained themselves regardless of any evidence disputing them. (Indeed, we can argue that these ideas produce evidence that proves their validity.)

The Orientalist is principally a kind of agent of such comprehensive visions; Lane is a typical instance of the way an individual believes himself to have subordinated his ideas, or even what he sees, to the exigencies of some "scientific" view of the whole phenomenon known collectively as the Orient, or the Oriental nation. A vision therefore is static, just as the scientific categories informing late-nineteenth-century Orientalism are static: there is no recourse beyond "the Semites" or "the Oriental mind"; these are final terminals holding every variety of Oriental behavior within a general view of the whole field. As a discipline, as a profession, as specialized language or discourse, Orientalism is staked upon the permanence of the whole Orient, for without "the Orient" there can be no consistent, intelligible, and articulated knowledge called "Orientalism." Thus the Orient belongs to Orientalism, just as it is assumed that there is pertinent information belonging to (or about) the Orient.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

Postby admin » Thu Sep 03, 2020 5:09 am

Part 2 of 2

Against this static system of"synchronic essentialism"43 I have called vision because it presumes that the whole Orient can be seen panoptically, there is a constant pressure. The source of pressure is narrative, in that if any Oriental detail can be shown to move, or to develop, diachrony is introduced into the system. What seemed stable-and the Orient is synonymous with stability and unchanging eternality-now appears unstable. Instability suggests that history, with its disruptive detail, its currents of change, its tendency towards growth, decline, or dramatic movement, is possible in the Orient and for the Orient. History and the narrative by which history is represented argue that vision is insufficient, that "the Orient" as an unconditional ontological category does an injustice to the potential of reality for change.

Moreover, narrative is the specific form taken by written history to counter the permanence of vision. Lane sensed the dangers of narrative when he refused to give linear shape to himself and to his information, preferring instead the monumental form of encyclopedic or lexicographical vision. Narrative asserts the power of men to be born, develop, and die, the tendency of institutions and actualities to change, the likelihood that modernity and contemporaneity will finally overtake "classical" civilizations; above all, it asserts that the domination of reality by vision is no more than a will to power, a will to truth and interpretation, and not an objective condition of history. Narrative, in short, introduces an opposing point of view, perspective, consciousness to the unitary web of vision; it violates the serene Apollonian fictions asserted by vision.

When as a result of World War I the Orient was made to enter history, it was the Orientalist-as-agent who did the work. Hannah Arendt has made the brilliant observation that the counterpart of the bureaucracy is the imperial agent,44 which is to say that if the collective academic endeavor called Orientalism was a bureaucratic institution based on a certain conservative vision of the Orient, then the servants of such a vision in the Orient were imperial agents like T. E. Lawrence. In his work we can see most clearly the conflict between narrative history and vision, as-in his words--the "new Imperialism" attempted "an active tide of imposing responsibility on the local peoples [of the Orient]."45 The competition between the European Powers now caused them to prod the Orient into active life, to press the Orient into service, to turn the Orient from unchanging "Oriental" passivity into militant modern life. It would be important, nevertheless, never to let the Orient go its own way or get out of hand, the canonical view being that Orientals had no tradition of freedom.

The great drama of Lawrence's work is that it symbolizes the struggle, first, to stimulate the Orient (lifeless, timeless, forceless) into movement; second, to impose upon that movement an essentially Western shape; third, to contain the new and aroused Orient in a personal vision, whose retrospective mode includes a powerful sense of failure and betrayal.

I meant to make a new nation, to restore a lost influence, to give twenty millions of Semites the foundation on which to build an inspired dream-palace of their national thoughts .... All the subject provinces of the Empire to me were not worth one dead English boy. If I have restored to the East some self-respect, a goal, ideals: if I have made the standard rule of white over red more exigent, I have fitted those peoples in a degree for the new commonwealth in which the dominant races will forget their brute achievements, and white and red and yellow and brown and black will stand up together without side-glances in the service of the world.46

None of this, whether as intention, as an actual undertaking, or as a failed project, would have been remotely possible without the White Orientalist perspective at the outset:

The Jew in the Metropole at Brighton, the miser, the worshipper of Adonis, the lecher in the stews of Damascus were alike signs of the Semitic capacity for enjoyment, and expressions of the same nerve which gave us at the other pole the self-denial of the Essenes, or the early Christians, or the first Khalifas, finding the ways to heaven fairest for the poor in spirit. The Semite hovered between lust and self-denial.

Lawrence is backed in such statements by a respectable tradition stretching like a lighthouse beam through the whole nineteenth century; at its light-emanating center, of course, is "the Orient," and that is powerful enough to light up both the gross and the refined topographies within its range. The Jew, the worshipper of Adonis, the Damascene lecher, are signs not so much of humanity, let us say, as of a semiotic field called Semitic and built into coherence by the Semitic branch of Orientalism. Inside this fold, certain things were possible:

Arabs could be swung on an idea as on a cord; for the unpledged allegiance of their minds made them obedient servants. None of them would escape the bond till success had come, and with it responsibility and duty and engagement. Then the idea was gone and the work ended-in ruins. Without a creed they could be taken to the four corners of the world (but not to heaven) by being shown the riches of the earth and the pleasures of it; but if on the road ...they met the prophet of an idea, who had no where to lay his head and who depended for his food on charity or birds, then they would all leave their wealth for his inspiration .... They were as unstable as water, and like water would perhaps finally prevail. Since the dawn of life, in successive waves they had been dashing themselves against the coasts of flesh. Each wave was broken .... One such wave (and not the least) I raised and rolled before the breath of an idea, till it reached its crest, and toppled over and fell at Damascus. The wash of that wave, thrown back by the resistance of vested things, will provide the matter of the following wave, when in fullness of time the sea shall be raised once more.

"Could," "would," and "if' are Lawrence's way inserting himself in the field, as it were. Thus the possibility is prepared for the last sentence, in which as manipulator of the Arabs Lawrence puts himself at their head. Like Conrad's Kurtz, Lawrence has cut himself loose from the earth so as to become identified with a new reality in order-he says later-that he might be responsible for "hustling into form ...the new Asia which time was inexorably bringing upon us."47

The Arab Revolt acquires meaning only as Lawrence designs meaning for it; his meaning imparted thus to Asia was a triumph, "a mood of enlargement ...in that we felt that we had assumed another's pain or experience, his personality." The Orientalist has become now the representative Oriental, unlike earlier participant observers such as Lane, for whom the Orient was something kept carefully at bay. But there is an unresolvable conflict in Lawrence between the White Man and the Oriental, and although he does not explicitly say so, this conflict essentially restages in his mind the historical conflict between East and West. Conscious of his power over the Orient, conscious also of his duplicity, unconscious of any thing in the Orient that would suggest to him that history, after all, is history and that even without him the Arabs would finally attend to their quarrel with the Turks, Lawrence reduces the entire narrative of the revolt (its momentary successes and its bitter failure) to his vision of himself as an unresolved, "standing civil war":

Yet in reality we had borne the vicarious for our own sakes, or at least because it was pointed for our benefit: and could escape from this knowledge only by a make-belief in sense as well as in motive....

There seemed no straight walking for us leaders in this crooked lane of conduct, ring within ring of unknown, shamefaced motives cancelling or double-charging their precedents.48

To this intimate sense of defeat Lawrence was later to add a theory about "the old men" who stole the triumph from him. In any event, what matters to Lawrence is that as a white expert, the legatee of years of academic and popular wisdom about the Orient, he is able to subordinate his style of being to theirs, thereafter to assume the role of Oriental prophet giving shape to a movement in "the new Asia." And when, for whatever reason, the movement fails (it is taken over by others, its aims are betrayed, its dream of independence invalidated), it is Lawrence's disappointment that counts. So far from being a mere man lost in the great rush of confusing events, Lawrence equates himself fully with the struggle of the new Asia to be born.

Whereas Aeschylus had represented Asia mourning its losses, and Nerval had expressed his disappointment in the Orient for not being more glamorous than he had wanted, Lawrence becomes both the mourning continent and a subjective consciousness expressing an almost cosmic disenchantment. In the end Lawrence- and thanks not only to Lowell Thomas and Robert Graves-and Lawrence's vision became the very symbol of Oriental trouble: Lawrence, in short, had assumed responsibility for the Orient by interspersing his knowing experience between the reader and history. Indeed what Lawrence presents to the reader is an unmediated expert power-the power to be, for a brief time, the Orient. All the events putatively ascribed to the historical Arab Revolt are reduced finally to Lawrence's experiences on its behalf.

In such a case, therefore, style is not only the power to symbolize such enormous generalities as Asia, the Orient, or the Arabs; it is also a form of displacement and incorporation by which one voice becomes a whole history, and-for the white Westerner, as reader or writer-the only kind of Orient it is possible to know. Just as Renan had mapped the field of possibility open to the Semites in culture, thought, and language, so too Lawrence charts the space (and indeed, appropriates that space) and time of modern Asia.

The effect of this style is that it brings Asia tantalizingly close to the West, but only for a brief moment. We are left at the end with a sense of the pathetic distance still separating "us" from an Orient destined to bear its foreignness as a mark of its permanent estrangement from the West. This is the disappointing conclusion corroborated (contemporaneously) by the ending of E. M. Forster's A Passage to India, where Aziz and Fielding attempt, and fail at, reconciliation:

"Why can't we be friends now?" said the other, holding him affectionately. "It's what I want. It's what you want."

But the horses didn't want it-they swerved apart; the earth didn't want it, sending up rocks through which riders must pass single file; the temples, the tank, the jail, the palace, the birds, the carrion, the Guest House, that came into view as they issued from the gap and saw Mau beneath: they didn't want it, they said in their hundred voices, "No, not yet," and the sky said, "No, not there."49

This style, this compact definition, is what the Orient will always come up against.

Despite its pessimism, there is a positive political message behind its phrases. The gulf between East and West can be modulated, as Cromer and Balfour knew well, by superior Western knowledge and power. Lawrence's vision is complemented in France by Maurice Barres's Une Enquête aux pays du Levant, the record of a journey through the Near Orient in 1914. Like so many works before it, the Enquête is a work of recapitulation whose author not only searches out sources and origins of Western culture in the Orient but also redoes Nerval, Flaubert, and Lamartine in their voyages to the Orient. For Barrès, however, there is an additional political dimension to his journey: he seeks proof, and conclusive evidence, for a constructive French role in the East. Yet the difference between French and British expertise remains: the former manages an actual conjunction of peoples and territory, whereas the latter deals with a realm of spiritual possibility. For Barres the French presence is best seen in French schools where, as he says of a school in Alexandria; "It is ravishing to see those little Oriental girls welcoming and so wonderfully reproducing the fantaisie and the melody [in their spoken French] of the lle-de France." If France does not actually have any colonies there, she is not entirely without possessions:

There is, there in the Orient, a feeling about France which is so religious and strong that it is capable of absorbing and reconciling all our most diverse aspirations. In the Orient we represent spirituality, justice, and the category of the ideal. England is powerful there; Germany is all-powerful; but we possess Oriental souls.

Arguing vociferously with Jaures, this celebrated European doctor proposes to vaccinate Asia against its own illnesses, to occidentalize the Orientals, to bring them into salubrious contact with France. Yet even in these projects Barres's vision preserves the very distinction between East and West he claims to be mitigating.

How will we be able to form for ourselves an intellectual elite with which we can work, made out of Orientals who would not be deracinated, who would continue to evolve according to their own norms, who would remain penetrated by family traditions, and who would thus form a link between us and the mass of natives? How will we create relationships with a view towards preparing the way for agreements and treaties which would be the desirable form taken by our political future [in the Orient]? All these things are finally all about soliciting in these strange peoples the taste for maintaining contact with our intelligence, even though this taste may in fact come out of their own sense of their national destiny.50

The emphasis in the last sentence is Barres's own. Since unlike Lawrence and Hogarth (whose book The Wandering Scholar is the wholly informative and unromantic record of two trips to the Levant in 1896 and 191051) he writes of a world of distant probabilities; he is more prepared to imagine the Orient as going its own way. Yet the bond (or leash) between East and West that he advocates is designed to permit a constant variety of intellectual pressure going from West to East. Barrens sees things, not in terms of waves, battles, spiritual adventures, but in terms of the cultivation of intellectual imperialism, as ineradicable as it, is subtle. The British vision, exemplified by Lawrence, is of the mainstream Orient, of peoples, political organizations, and movements guided and held in check by the White Man's expert tutelage; the Orient is "our" Orient, "our" people, "our" dominions. Discriminations between elites and the masses are less likely to be made by the British than by the French, whose perceptions and policy were always based on minorities and on the insidious pressures of spiritual community between France and its colonial children.

The British agent-Orientalist Lawrence, Bell, Philby, Storrs, Hogarth - during and after World War I took over both the rule of expert-adventurer-eccentric (created in the nineteenth century by Lane, Burton, Hester Stanhope) and the role of colonial authority, whose position is in a central place next to the indigenous ruler: Lawrence with the Hashimites, Philby with the house of Saud, are the two best-known instances. British Oriental expertise fashioned itself around consensus and orthodoxy and sovereign authority; French Oriental expertise between the wars concerned itself with heterodoxy, spiritual ties, eccentrics. It is no accident, then, that the two major scholarly careers of this period, one British, one French, were H. A. R. Gibb's and Louis Massignon's, one whose interest was defined by the notion of Sunna (or orthodoxy) in Islam, the other whose focus was on the quasi-Christlike, theosophical Sufi figure, Mansur al-Hallaj. I shall return to these two major Orientalists a little later.

If I have concentrated so much on imperial agents and policymakers instead of scholars in this section, it was to accentuate the major shift in Orientalism, knowledge about the Orient, intercourse with it, from an academic to an instrumental attitude. What accompanies the shift is a change in the attitude as well of the individual Orientalist, who need no longer see himself-as Lane, Sacy, Renan, Caussin, Muller, and others did-as belonging to a sort of guild community with its own internal traditions and rituals. Now the Orientalist has become the representative man of his Western culture, a man who compresses within his own work a major duality of which that work (regardless of its specific form) is the symbolic expression: Occidental consciousness, knowledge, science taking hold of the furthest Oriental reaches as well as the most minute Oriental particulars. Formally the Orientalist sees himself as accomplishing the union of Orient and Occident, but mainly by reasserting the technological, political, and cultural supremacy of the West. History, in such a union, is radically attenuated if not banished. Viewed as a current of development, as a narrative strand, or as a dynamic force unfolding systematically and materially in time and space, human history-of the East or the West -is subordinated to an essentialist, idealist conception of Occident and Orient. Because he feels himself to be standing at the very rim of the East-West divide, the Orientalist not only speaks in vast generalities; he also seeks to convert each aspect of Oriental or Occidental life into an unmediated sign of one or the other geographical half.

The interchange in the Orientalist's writing between his expert self and his testimonial, beholding self as Western representative is pre-eminently worked out in visual terms. Here is a typical passage (quoted by Gibb) from Duncan Macdonald's classic work The Religious Attitude and Life in Islam (1909):

The Arabs show themselves not as especially easy of belief, but as hardheaded, materialistic, questioning, doubting, scoffing at their own superstitions and usages, fond of tests of the supernatural-and all this in a curiously light-minded, almost childish fashion. 52

The governing verb is show, which here gives us to understand that the Arabs display themselves (willingly or unwillingly) to and for expert scrutiny. The number of attributes ascribed to them, by its crowded set of sheer appositions, causes "the Arabs" to acquire a sort of existential weightlessness; thereby, "the Arabs" are made to rejoin the very broad designation, common to modern anthropological thought, of "the childish primitive." What Macdonald also implies is that for such descriptions there is a peculiarly privileged position occupied by the Western Orientalist, whose representative function is precisely to show what needs to be seen. All specific history is capable of being seen thus at the apex, or the sensitive frontier, of Orient and Occident together. The complex dynamics of human life-what I have been calling history as narrative -- becomes either irrelevant or trivial in comparison with the circular vision by which the details of Oriental life serve merely to reassert the Orientalness of the subject and the Westernness of the observer.

If such a vision in some ways recalls Dante's, we should by no means fail to notice what an enormous difference there is between this Orient and Dante's. Evidence here is meant to be (and probably is considered) scientific; its pedigree, genealogically speaking, is European intellectual and human science during the nineteenth century. Moreover, the Orient is no simple marvel, or an enemy, or a branch of exotica; it is a political actuality of great and significant moment. Like Lawrence, Macdonald cannot really detach his representative characteristics as a Westerner from his role as a scholar. Thus his vision of Islam, as much as Lawrence's of the Arabs, implicates definition of the object with the identity of the person defining. All Arab Orientals must be accommodated to a vision of an Oriental type as constructed by the Western scholar, as well as to a specific encounter with the Orient in which the Westerner regrasps the Orient's essence as a consequence of his intimate estrangement from it. For Lawrence as for Forster, this latter sensation produces the despondency as well of personal failure; for such scholars as Macdonald, it strengthens the Orientalist discourse itself.

And it puts that discourse abroad in the world of culture, politics, and actuality. In the period between the wars, as we can easily judge from, say, Malraux's novels, the relations between East and West assumed a currency that was both widespread and anxious. The signs of Oriental claims for political independence were everywhere; certainly in the dismembered Ottoman Empire they were encouraged by the Allies and, as is perfectly evident in the whole Arab Revolt and its aftermath, quickly became problematic. The Orient now appeared to constitute a challenge, not just to the West in general, but to the West's spirit, knowledge, and imperium. After a good century of constant intervention in (and study of) the Orient, the West's role in an East itself responding to the crises of modernity seemed considerably more delicate. There was the issue of outright occupation; there was the issue of the mandated territories; there was the issue of European competition in the Orient; there was the issue of dealing with native elites, native popular movements, and native demands for self-government and independence; there was the issue of civilizational contacts between Orient and Occident. Such issues forced reconsideration of Western knowledge of the Orient. No less a personage than Sylvain Levi, president of the Société asiatique between 1928 and 1935, professor of Sanskrit at the Collège de France, reflected seriously in 1925 on the urgency of the East- West problem:

Our duty is to understand Oriental civilization. The humanistic problem, which consists, on an intellectual level, in making a sympathetic and intelligent effort to understand foreign civilizations in both their past and their future forms, is specifically posed for us Frenchmen [although similar sentiments could have been expressed by an Englishman: the problem was a European one] in a practical way with regard to our great Asiatic colonies....

These peoples are the inheritors of a long tradition of history, of art, and of religion, the sense of which they have not entirely lost and which they are probably anxious to prolong. We have assumed the responsibility of intervening in their development, sometimes without consulting them, sometimes in answer to their request.... We claim, rightly or wrongly, to represent a superior civilization, and because of the right given us by virtue of this superiority, which we regularly affirm with such assurance as makes it seem incontestable to the natives, we have called in question all their native traditions ....

In a general way, then, wherever the European has intervened, the native has perceived himself with a sort of general despair which was really poignant since he felt that the sum of his wellbeing, in the moral sphere more than in sheer material terms, instead of increasing had in fact diminished. All of which has made the foundation of his social life seem to be flimsy and to crumble under him, and the golden pillars on which he had thought to rebuild his life now seem no more than tinseled cardboard.

This disappointment has been translated into rancor from one end to the other of the Orient, and this rancor is very close now to turning to hate, and hate only waits for the right moment in order to turn into action.

If because of laziness or incomprehension Europe does not make the effort that its interests alone require from it, then the Asiatic drama will approach the crisis point.

It is here that that science which is a form of life and an instrument of policy-that is, wherever our interests are at stake-owes it to itself to penetrate native civilization and life in their intimacy in order to discover their fundamental values and durable characteristics rather than to smother native life with the incoherent threat of European civilizational imports. We must offer ourselves to these civilizations as we do our other products, that is, on the local exchange market. [Emphasis in original] 53

Lévi has no difficulty in connecting Orientalism with politics, for the long-or rather, the prolonged-Western intervention in the East cannot be denied either in its consequences for knowledge or in its effect upon the hapless native; together the two add up to what could be a menacing future. For all his expressed humanism, his admirable concern for fellow creatures, Lévi conceives the present juncture in unpleasantly constricted terms. The Oriental is imagined to feel his world threatened by a superior civilization; yet his motives are impelled, not by some positive desire for freedom, political independence, or cultural achievement on their own terms, but instead by rancor or jealous malice. The panacea offered for this potentially ugly turn of affairs is that the Orient be marketed for a Western consumer, be put before him as one among numerous wares beseeching his attention. By a single stroke you will defuse the Orient (by letting it think itself to be an "equal" quantity on the Occidental marketplace of ideas), and you will appease Western fears of an Oriental tidal wave. At bottom, of course, Lévi's principal point-and his most telling confession-is that unless something is done about the Orient, "the Asiatic drama will approach the crisis point."

Asia suffers, yet in its suffering it threatens Europe: the eternal, bristling frontier endures between East and West, almost unchanged since classical antiquity. What Lévi says as the most august of modern Orientalists is echoed with less subtlety by cultural humanists. Item: in 1925 the French periodical Les Cahiers du mois conducted a survey among notable intellectual figures; the writers canvassed included Orientalists (Lévi, Émile Senart) as well as literary men like André Gide, Paul Valéry, and Edmond Jaloux. The questions dealt with relations between Orient and Occident in a timely, not to say brazenly provocative, way, and this already indicates something about the cultural ambience of the period. We will immediately recognize how ideas of the sort promulgated in Orientalist scholarship have now reached the level of accepted truth. One question asks whether Orient and Occident are mutually impenetrable (the idea was Maeterlinck's) or not; another asks whether or not Oriental influence represented "un peril grave" Henri Massis's words-to French thought; a third asks about those values in Occidental culture to which its superiority over the Orient can be ascribed. Valéry's response seems to me worth quoting from, so forthright are the lines of its argument and so time-honored, at least in the early twentieth century:

From the cultural point of view, I do not think that we have much to fear now from the Oriental influence. It is not unknown to us. We owe to the Orient all the beginnings of our arts and of a great deal of our knowledge. We can very well welcome what now comes out of the Orient, if something new is coming out of there -which I very much doubt. This doubt is precisely our guarantee and our European weapon.

Besides, the real question in such matters is to digest. But that has always been, just as precisely, the great specialty of the European mind through the ages. Our role is therefore to maintain this power of choice, of universal comprehension, of the transformation of everything into our own substance, powers which have made us what we are. The Greeks and the Romans showed us how to deal with the monsters of Asia, how to treat them by analysis, how to extract from them their quintessence .... The Mediterranean basin seems to me to be like a closed vessel where the essences of the vast Orient have always come in order to be condensed. [Emphasis and ellipses in original] 54

If European culture generally has digested the Orient, certainly Valéry was aware that one specific agency for doing the job has been Orientalism. In the world of Wilsonian principles of national self determination, Valéry relies confidently on analyzing the Orient's threat away. "The power of choice" is mainly for Europe first to acknowledge the Orient as the origin of European science, then to treat it as a superseded origin. Thus, in another context, Balfour could regard the native inhabitants of Palestine as having priority on the land, but nowhere near the subsequent authority to keep it; the mere wishes of 700,000 Arabs, he said, were of no moment compared to the destiny of an essentially European colonial Movement.55

Asia represented, then, the unpleasant likelihood of a sudden eruption that would destroy "our" world; as John Buchan put it in 1922:

The earth is seething with incoherent power and unorganized intelligence. Have you ever reflected on the case of China? There you have millions of quick brains stiffed in trumpery crafts. They have no direction, no driving power, so the sum of their efforts is futile, and the world laughs at China.56

But if China organized itself (as it would), it would be no laughing matter. Europe's effort therefore was to maintain itself as what Valery called "une machine puissante,"57 absorbing what it could from outside Europe, converting everything to its use, intellectually and materially, keeping the Orient selectively organized (or disorganized). Yet this could be done only through clarity of vision and analysis. Unless the Orient was seen for what it was, its power -military, material, spiritual-would sooner or later overwhelm Europe. The great colonial empires, great systems of systematic repression, existed to fend off the feared eventuality. Colonial subjects, as George Orwell saw them in Marrakech in 1939, must not be seen except as a kind of continental emanation, African, Asian, Oriental:

When you walk through a town like this-two hundred thousand inhabitants, of whom at least twenty thousand own literally nothing except the rags they stand up in-when you see how the people live, and still more, how easily they die, it is always difficult to believe that you are walking among human beings. All colonial empires are in reality founded upon that fact. The people have brown faces-besides they have so many of them! Are they really the same flesh as yourself? Do they even have names? Or are they merely a kind of undifferentiated brown stuff, about as individual as bees or coral insects? They arise out of the earth, they sweat and starve for a few years, and then they sink back into the nameless mounds of the graveyard and nobody notices that they are gone. And even the graves themselves soon fade back into the soil.58

Aside from the picturesque characters offered European readers in the exotic fiction of minor writers (Pierre Loti, Marmaduke Pickthall, and the like), the non-European known to Europeans is precisely what Orwell says about him. He is either a figure of fun, or an atom in a vast collectivity designated in ordinary or cultivated discourse as an undifferentiated type called Oriental, African, yellow, brown, or Muslim. To such abstractions Orientalism had contributed its power of generalization, converting instances of a civilization into ideal bearers of its values, ideas, and positions, which in turn the Orientalists had found in "the Orient" and transformed into common cultural currency.

If we reflect that Raymond Schwab brought out his brilliant biography of Anquetil-Duperron in 1934-and began those studies which were to put Orientalism in its proper cultural context-we must also remark that what he did was in stark contrast to his fellow artists and intellectuals, for whom Orient and Occident were still the secondhand abstractions they were for Valery. Not that Pound, Eliot, Yeats, Arthur Waley, Fenollosa, Paul Claudel (in his Connaissance de l’est), Victor Ségalen, and others were ignoring "the wisdom of the East," as Max Willer had called it a few generations earlier. Rather the culture viewed the Orient, and Islam in particular, with the mistrust with which, its learned attitude to the Orient had always been freighted. A suitable instance of this contemporary attitude at its most explicit is to be found in a series of lectures given at the University of Chicago in 1924 on "The Occident and the Orient" by Valentine Chirol, a well-known European newspaperman of great experience in the East; his purpose was to make clear to educated Americans that the Orient was not as far off as perhaps they believed. His line is a simple one: that Orient and Occident are irreducibly opposed to each other, and that the Orient-in particular "Mohammedanism"--is one of "the great world-forces" responsible for "the deepest lines of cleavage" in the world.59 Chirol's sweeping generalizations are, I think, adequately represented by the titles of his six lectures: "Their Ancient Battleground"; "The Passing of the Ottoman Empire, the Peculiar Case of Egypt"; "The Great British Experiment in Egypt"; "Protectorates and Mandates"; "The New Factor of Bolshevism"; and "Some General Conclusions."

To such relatively popular accounts of the Orient as Chirol's, we can add a testimonial by Élie Faure, who in his ruminations draws, like Chirol, on history, cultural expertise, and the familiar contrast between White Occidentalism and colored Orientalism. While delivering himself of paradoxes like "le carnage permanent de l'indifférence orientale" (for, unlike "us," "they" have no conception of peace), Faure goes on to show that the Orientals' bodies are lazy, that the Orient has no conception of history, of the nation, or of patrie, that the Orient is essentially mystical-and so on. Faure argues that unless the Oriental learns to be rational, to develop techniques of knowledge and positivity, there can be no rapprochement between East and West.60 A far more subtle and learned account of the East- West dilemma can be found in Fernand Baldensperger's essay "Où s'affrontent I'Orient et l'Occident intellectuels," but he too speaks of an inherent Oriental disdain for the idea, for mental discipline, for rational interpretation.61

Spoken as they are out of the depths of European culture, by writers who actually believe themselves to be speaking on behalf of that culture, such commonplaces (for they are perfect idées reçues) cannot be explained simply as examples of provincial chauvinism. They are not that, and-as will be evident to anyone who knows anything about Faure's and Baldensperger's other work-are the more paradoxical for not being that. Their background is the transformation of the exacting, professional science of Orientalism, whose function in nineteenth-century culture had been the restoration to Europe of a lost portion of humanity, but which had become in the twentieth century both an instrument of policy and, more important, a code by which Europe could interpret both itself and the Orient to itself. For reasons discussed earlier in this book, modern Orientalism already carried within itself the imprint of the great European fear of Islam, and this was aggravated by the political challenges of the entre-deux-guerres. My point is that the metamorphosis of a relatively innocuous philological subspecialty into a capacity for managing political movements, administering colonies, making nearly apocalyptic statements representing the White Man's difficult civilizing mission-all this is something at work within a purportedly liberal culture, one full of concern for its vaunted norms of catholicity, plurality, and open-mindedness. In fact, what took place was the very opposite of liberal: the hardening of doctrine and meaning, imparted by "science," into "truth." For if such truth reserved for itself the right to judge the Orient as immutably Oriental in the ways I have indicated, then liberality was no more than a form of oppression and mentalistic prejudice.

The extent of such illiberality was not-and is not-often recognized from within the culture, for reasons that this book is trying to explore. It is heartening, nevertheless, that such illiberality has occasionally been challenged. Here is an instance from I. A. Richards's foreword to his Mencius on the Mind (1932); we can quite easily substitute "Oriental" for "Chinese" in what follows.

As to the effects of an increased knowledge of Chinese thought upon the West, it is interesting to notice that a writer so unlikely to be thought either ignorant or careless as M. Etienne Gilson can yet, in the English Preface of his The Philosophy of St. Thomas Aquinas, speak of Thomistic Philosophy as "accepting and gathering up the whole of human tradition." This is how we all think, to us the Western world is still the World [or the part of the World that counts]; but an impartial observer would perhaps say that such provincialism is dangerous. And we are not yet so happy in the West that we can be sure that we are not suffering from its effects.62

Richards's argument advances claims for the exercise of what he calls Multiple Definition, a genuine type of pluralism, with the combativeness of systems of definition eliminated. Whether or not we accept his counter to Gilson's provincialism, we can accept the proposition that liberal humanism, of which Orientalism has historically been one department, retards the process of enlarged and enlarging meaning through which true understanding can be attained. What took the place of enlarged meaning in twentieth century Orientalism-that is, within the technical field-is the subject most immediately at hand.
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Re: Orientalism, by Edward W. Said

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Part 1 of 2

III- Modern Anglo-French Orientalism in Fullest Flower

Because we have become accustomed to think of a contemporary expert on some branch of the Orient, or some aspect of its life, as a specialist in "area studies," we have lost a vivid sense of how, until around World War II, the Orientalist was considered to be a generalist (with a great deal of specific knowledge, of course) who had highly developed skills for making summational statements. By summational statements I mean that in formulating a relatively uncomplicated idea, say, about Arabic grammar or Indian religion, the Orientalist would be understood (and would understand himself) as also making a statement about the Orient as a whole, thereby summing it up. Thus every discrete study of one bit of Oriental material would also confirm in a summary way the profound Orientality of the material. And since it was commonly believed that the whole Orient hung together in some profoundly organic way, it made perfectly good hermeneutical sense for the Orientalist scholar to regard the material evidence he dealt with as ultimately leading to a better understanding of such things as the Oriental character, mind, ethos, or world-spirit.

Most of the first two chapters of this book have made similar arguments about earlier periods in the history of Orientalist thought. The differentiation in its later history that concerns us here, however, is the one between the periods immediately before and after World War I. In both instances, as with the earlier periods, the Orient is Oriental no matter the specific case, and no matter the style or technique used to describe it; the difference between the two periods in question is the reason given by the Orientalist for seeing the essential Orientality of the Orient. A good example of the prewar rationale can be found in the following passage by Snouck Hurgronje, taken from his 1899 review of Eduard Sachau's Muhammedanisches Recht:

… the law, which in practice had to make ever greater concessions to the use and customs of the people and the arbitrariness of their rulers, nevertheless retained a considerable influence on the intellectual life of the Muslims. Therefore it remains, and still is for us too, an important subject of study, not only for abstract reasons connected with the history of law, civilization and religion, but also for practical purposes. The more intimate the relations of Europe with the Muslim East become, the more Muslim countries fall under European suzerainty, the more important it is for us Europeans to become acquainted with the intellectual life, the religious law, and the conceptual background of Islam.63

Although Hurgronje allows that something so abstract as "Islamic law" did occasionally yield to the pressure of history and society, he is more interested than not in retaining the abstraction for intellectual use because in its broad outline "Islamic law" confirms the disparity between East and West. For Hurgronje the distinction between Orient and Occident was no mere academic or popular cliche: quite the contrary. For him it signified the essential, historical power relationship between the two. Knowledge of the Orient either proves, enhances, or deepens the difference by which European suzerainty (the phrase has a venerable nineteenth-century pedigree) is extended effectively over Asia. To know the Orient as a whole, then, is to know it because it is entrusted to one's keeping, if one is a Westerner.

An almost symmetrical passage to Hurgronje's is to be found in the concluding paragraph of Gibb's article "Literature" in The Legacy of Islam, published in 1931. After having described the three casual contacts between East and West up till the eighteenth century, Gibb then proceeds to the nineteenth century:

Following on these three moments of casual contact, the German romantics turned again to the East, and for the first time made it their conscious aim to open a way for the real heritage of oriental poetry to enter into the poetry of Europe. The nineteenth century, with its new sense of power and superiority, seemed to clang the gate decisively in the face of their design. Today, on the other hand, there are signs of a change. Oriental literature has begun to be studied again for its own sake, and a new understanding of the East is being gained. As this knowledge spreads and the East recovers its rightful place in the life of humanity, oriental literature may once again perform its historic function, and assist us to liberate ourselves from the narrow and oppressive conceptions which would limit all that is significant in literature, thought, and history to our own segment of the globe.64

Gibb's phrase "for its own sake" is in diametrical opposition to the string of reasons subordinated to Hurgronje's declaration about European suzerainty over the East. What remains, nevertheless, is that seemingly inviolable over all identity of something called "the East" and something else called "the West." Such entities have a use for each other, and it is plainly Gibb's laudable intention to show that the influence on Western of Oriental literature need not be (in its results) what Brunetière had called "a national disgrace." Rather, the East could be confronted as a sort of humanistic challenge to the local confines of Western ethnocentricity.

His earlier solicitation of Goethe's idea of Welditeratur notwithstanding, Gibb's call for humanistic interinanimation between East and West reflects the changed political and cultural realities of the postwar era. European suzerainty over the Orient had not passed; but it had evolved-in British Egypt-from a more or less placid acceptance by the natives into a more and more contested political issue compounded by fractious native demands for independence. These were the years of constant British trouble with Zaghlul, the Wafd party, and the like.65 Moreover, since 1925 there had been a worldwide economic recession, and this too increased the sense of tension that Gibb's prose reflects. But the specifically cultural message in what he says is the most compelling. Heed the Orient, he seems to be telling his reader, for its use to the Western mind in the struggle to overcome narrowness, oppressive specialization, and limited perspectives.

The ground had shifted considerably from Hurgronje to Gibb, as had the priorities. No longer did it go without much controversy that Europe's domination over the Orient was almost a fact of nature; nor was it assumed that the Orient was in need of Western enlightenment. What mattered during the interwar years was a cultural self-definition that transcended the provincial and the xenophobic. For Gibb, the West has need of the Orient as something to be studied because it releases the spirit from sterile specialization, it eases the affliction of excessive parochial and nationalistic self-centeredness, it increases one's grasp of the really central issues in the study of culture. If the Orient appears more a partner in this new rising dialectic of cultural self-consciousness, it is, first, because the Orient is more of a challenge now than it was before, and second, because the West is entering a relatively new phase of cultural crisis, caused in part by the diminishment of Western suzerainty over the rest of the world.

Therefore, in the best Orientalist work done during the interwar period represented in the impressive careers of Massignon and Gibb himself-we will find elements in common with the best humanistic scholarship of the period. Thus the summational attitude of which I spoke earlier can be regarded as the Orientalist equivalent of attempts in the purely Western humanities to understand culture as a whole, antipositivistically, intuitively, sympathetically. Both the Orientalist and the non-Orientalist begin with the sense that Western culture is passing through an important phase, whose main feature is the crisis imposed on it by such threats as barbarism, narrow technical concerns, moral aridity, strident nationalism, and so forth. The idea of using specific texts, for instance, to work from the specific to the general (to understand the whole life of a period and consequently of a culture) is common to those humanists in the West inspired by the work of Wilhelm Dilthey, as well as to towering Orientalist scholars like Massignon and Gibb. The project of revitalizing philology-as it is found in the work of Curtius, Vossler, Auerbach, Spitzer, Gundolf, Hofmannsthal 66-has its counterpart therefore in the invigorations provided to strictly technical Orientalist philology by Massignon's studies of what he called the mystical lexicon, the vocabulary of Islamic devotion, and so on.

But there is another, more interesting conjunction between Orientalism in this phase of its history and the European sciences of man (sciences de l'homme), the Geisteswissenschaften contemporary with it. We must note, first, that non-Orientalist cultural studies were perforce more immediately responsive to the threats to humanistic culture of a self-aggrandizing, amoral technical specialization represented, in part at least, by the rise of fascism in Europe. This response extended the concerns of the interwar period into the period following World War II as well. An eloquent scholarly and personal testimonial to this response can be found in Erich Auerbach's magisterial Mimesis, and in his last methodological reflections as a Philolog.67 He tells us that Mimesis was written during his exile in Turkey and was meant to be in large measure an attempt virtually to see the development of Western culture at almost the last moment when that culture still had its integrity and civilizational coherence; therefore, he set himself the task of writing a general work based on specific textual analyses in such a way as to lay out the principles of Western literary performance in all their variety, richness, and fertility. The aim was a synthesis of Western culture in which the synthesis itself was matched in importance by the very gesture of doing it, which Auerbach believed was made possible by what he called "late bourgeois humanism."68 The discrete particular was thus converted into a highly mediated symbol of the world -historical process.

No less important for Auerbach-and this fact is of immediate relevance to Orientalism-was the humanistic tradition of involvement in a national culture or literature not one's own. Auerbach's example was Curtius, whose prodigious output testified to his deliberate choice as a German to dedicate himself professionally to the Romance literatures. Not for nothing, then, did Auerbach end his autumnal reflections with a significant quotation from Hugo of St. Victor's Didascalicon: "The man who finds his homeland sweet is still a tender beginner; he to whom every soil is as his native one is already strong; but he is perfect to whom the entire world is as a foreign land."69 The more one is able to leave one's cultural home, the more easily is one able to judge it, and the whole world as well, with the spiritual detachment and generosity necessary for true vision. The more easily, too, does one assess oneself and alien cultures with the same combination of intimacy and distance.

No less important and methodologically formative a cultural force was the use in the social sciences of "types" both as an analytical device and as a way of seeing familiar things in a new way. The precise history of the "type" as it is to be found in earlytwentieth-century thinkers like Weber, Durkheim, Lukacs, Mannheim, and the other sociologists of knowledge has been examined often enough: 70 yet it has not been remarked, I think, that Weber's studies of Protestantism, Judaism, and Buddhism blew him (perhaps unwittingly) into the very territory originally charted and claimed by the Orientalists. There he found encouragement amongst all those nineteenth-century thinkers who believed that there was a sort of ontological difference between Eastern and Western economic (as well as religious) "mentalities." Although he never thoroughly studied Islam, Weber nevertheless influenced the field considerably, mainly because his notions of type were simply an "outside" confirmation of many of the canonical theses held by Orientalists, whose economic ideas never extended beyond asserting the Oriental's fundamental incapacity for trade, commerce, and economic rationality. In the Islamic field those cliches held good for literally hundreds of years-until Maxime Rodinson's important study Islam and Capitalism appeared in 1966. Still, the notion of a type Oriental, Islamic, Arab, or whatever-endures and is nourished by similar kinds of abstractions or paradigms or types as they emerge out of the modern social sciences.

I have often spoken in this book of the sense of estrangement experienced by Orientalists as they dealt with or lived in a culture so profoundly different from their own. Now one of the striking differences between Orientalism in its Islamic version and all the other humanistic disciplines where Auerbach's notions on the necessity of estrangement have some validity is that Islamic Orientalists never saw their estrangement from Islam either as salutary or as an attitude with implications for the better understanding of their own culture. Rather, their estrangement from Islam simply intensified their feelings of superiority about European culture, even as their antipathy spread to include the entire Orient, of which Islam was considered a degraded (and usually, a virulently dangerous) representative. Such tendencies-it has also been my argument-became built into the very traditions of Orientalist study throughout the nineteenth century, and in time became a standard component of most Orientalist training, handed on from generation to generation. In addition, I think, the likelihood was very great that European scholars would continue to see the Near Orient through the perspective of its Biblical "origins," that is, as a place of unshakably influential religious primacy. Given its special relationship to both Christianity and Judaism, Islam remained forever the Orientalist's idea (or type) of original cultural effrontery, aggravated naturally by the fear that Islamic civilization originally (as well as contemporaneously) continued to stand somehow opposed to the Christian West.

For these reasons, Islamic Orientalism between the wars shared in the general sense of cultural crisis adumbrated by Auerbach and the others I have spoken of briefly, without at the same time developing in the same way as the other human sciences. Because Islamic Orientalism also preserved within it the peculiarly polemical religious attitude it had had from the beginning, it remained fixed in certain methodological tracks, so to speak. Its cultural alienation, for one, needed to be preserved from modern history and socio-political circumstance, as well as from the necessary revisions imposed on any theoretical or historical "type" by new data. For another, the abstractions offered by Orientalism (or rather, the opportunity for making abstractions) in the case of Islamic civilization were considered to have acquired a new validity; since it was assumed that Islam worked the way Orientalists said it did (without reference to actuality, but only to a set of "classical" principles), it was also assumed that modern Islam would be nothing more than a reasserted version of the old, especially since it was also supposed that modernity for Islam was less of a challenge than an insult. (The very large number of assumptions and suppositions in this description, incidentally, are intended to portray the rather eccentric twists and turns necessary for Orientalism to have maintained its peculiar way of seeing human reality.) Finally, if the synthesizing ambition in philology (as conceived by Auerbach or. Curtius) was to lead to an enlargement of the scholar's awareness, of his sense of the brotherhood of man, of the universality of certain principles of human behavior, in Islamic Orientalism synthesis led to a sharpened sense of difference between Orient and Occident as reflected in Islam.

What I am describing, then, is something that will characterize Islamic Orientalism until the present day: its retrogressive position when compared with the other human sciences (and even with the other branches of Orientalism), its general methodological and ideological backwardness, and its comparative insularity from developments both in the other humanities and in the real world of historical, economic, social, and political circumstances.71 Some awareness of this lag in Islamic (or Semitic) Orientalism was already present towards the end of the nineteenth century, perhaps because it was beginning to be apparent to some observers how very little either Semitic or Islamic Orientalism had shaken itself loose from the religious background from which it originally derived. The first Orientalist congress was organized and held in Paris in 1873, and almost from the outset it was evident to other scholars that the Semiticists and Islamicists were in intellectual arrears, generally speaking. Writing a survey of all the congresses that had been held between 1873 and 1897, the English scholar R. N. Cust had this to say about the Semitic-Islamic subfield:

Such meetings [as those held in the ancient-Semitic field], indeed, advance Oriental learning.

The same cannot be said with regard to the modern-Semitic section; it was crowded, but the subjects discussed were of the smallest literary interest, such as would occupy the minds of the dilettanti scholars of the old school, not the great class of "indicatores" of the nineteenth century. I am forced to go back to Pliny to find a word. There was an absence from this section both of the modern philological and archeological spirit, and the report reads more like that of a congress of University tutors of the last century met to discuss the reading of a passage in a Greek play, or the accentuation of a vowel, before the dawn of Comparative Philology had swept away the cobwebs of the Scholiasts. Was it worth while to discuss whether Mahomet could hold a pen or write? 72

To some extent the polemical antiquarianism that Cust described was a scholarly version of European anti-Semitism. Even the designation "modern-Semitic," which was meant to include both Muslims and Jews (and which had its origin in the so-called ancient-Semitic field pioneered by Renan), carried its racist banner with what was doubtless meant to be a decent ostentation. A little later in his report Cust comments on how in the same meeting " `the Aryan' supplied much material for reflection." Clearly "the Aryan" is a counterabstraction to "the Semite," but for some of the reasons I listed earlier, such atavistic labels were felt to be especially pertinent to Semites-with what expensive moral and human consequences for the human community as a whole, the history of the twentieth century amply demonstrates. Yet what has not been sufficiently stressed in histories of modern anti-Semitism has been the legitimation of such atavistic designations by Orientalism, and more important for my purposes here, the way this academic and intellectual legitimation has persisted right through the modern age in discussions of Islam, the Arabs, or the Near Orient. For whereas it is no longer possible to write learned (or even popular) disquisitions on either "the Negro mind" or "the Jewish personality," it is perfectly possible to engage in such research as "the Islamic mind," or "the Arab character"-but of this subject more later.

Thus, in order properly to understand the intellectual genealogy of interwar Islamic Orientalism-as it is most interestingly and satisfyingly seen (no irony intended) in the careers of Massignon and Gibb-we must be able to understand the differences between the Orientalist's summational attitude towards his material and the kind of attitude to which it bears a strong cultural resemblance, that in the work of philologists such as Auerbach and Curtius. The intellectual crisis in Islamic Orientalism was another aspect of the spiritual crisis of "late bourgeois humanism"; in its form and style, however, Islamic Orientalism viewed the problems of mankind as separable into the categories called "Oriental" or "Occidental." It was believed, then, that for the Oriental, liberation, self-expression, and self-enlargement were not the issues that they were for the Occidental. Instead, the Islamic Orientalist expressed his ideas about Islam in such a way as to emphasize his, as well as putatively the Muslim's, resistance to change, to mutual comprehension between East and West, to the development of men and women out of archaic, primitive classical institutions and into modernity. Indeed, so fierce was this sense of resistance to change, and so universal were the powers ascribed to it, that in reading the Orientalists one understands that the apocalypse to be feared was not the destruction of Western civilization but rather the destruction of the barriers that kept East and West from each other. When Gibb opposed nationalism in the modern Islamic states, he did so because he felt that nationalism would corrode the inner structures keeping Islam Oriental; the net result of secular nationalism would be to make the Orient no different from the West. Yet it is a tribute to Gibb's extraordinarily sympathetic powers of identification with an alien religion that he put his disapproval in such a way as to seem to be speaking for the Islamic orthodox community. How much such pleading was a reversion to the old Orientalist habit of speaking for the natives and how much it was a sincere attempt at speaking in Islam's best interests is a question whose answer lies somewhere between the two alternatives.

No scholar or thinker, of course, is a perfect representative of some ideal type or school in which, by virtue of national origin or the accidents of history, he participates. Yet in so relatively insulated and specialized a tradition as Orientalism, I think there is in each scholar some awareness, partly conscious and partly nonconscious, of national tradition, if not of national ideology. This is particularly true in Orientalism, additionally so because of the direct political involvement of European nations in the affairs of one or another Oriental country: the case of Snouck Hurgronje, to cite a non-British and non-French instance where the scholar's sense of national identity is simple and clear, comes to mind immediately.73 Yet even after making all the proper qualifications about the difference between an individual and a type (or between an individual and a tradition), it is nevertheless striking to note the extent to which Gibb and Massignon were representative types. Perhaps it would be better to say that Gibb and Massignon fulfilled all the expectations created for them by their national traditions, by the politics of their nations, by the internal history of their national "schools" of Orientalism.

Sylvain Levi put the distinction between the two schools trenchantly:

The political interest that ties England to India holds British work to a sustained contact with concrete realities, and maintains the cohesion between representations of the past and the spectacle of the present.

Nourished by classical traditions, France seeks out the human mind as it manifests itself in India in the same way that it is interested in China.74

It would be too easy to say that this polarity results, on the one hand, in work that is sober, efficient, concrete, and on the other, in work that is universalistic, speculative, brilliant. Yet the polarity serves to illuminate two long and extremely distinguished careers that between them dominated French and Anglo-American Islamic Orientalism until the 1960s; if the domination makes any sense at all, it is because each scholar derived from and worked in a self-conscious tradition whose constraints (or limits, intellectually and politically speaking) can be described as Lévi describes them above.

Gibb was born in Egypt, Massignon in France. Both were to become deeply religious men, students not so much of society as of the religious life in society. Both were also profoundly worldly; one of their greatest achievements was putting traditional scholarship to use in the modern political world. Yet the range of their work the texture of it, almost-is vastly different, even allowing for the obvious disparities in their schooling and religious education. In his lifelong devotion, to the work of al-Hallaj-- "whose traces," Gibb said in his obituary notice for Massignon in 1962, he "never ceased to seek out in later Islamic literature and devotion"- Massignon's almost unrestricted range of research would lead him virtually everywhere, finding evidence for "l'esprit humaine a travers l'espace et le temps." In an oeuvre that took "in every aspect and region of contemporary Muslim life and thought," Massignon's presence in Orientalism was a constant challenge to his colleagues. Certainly Gibb for one admired-but finally drew back from-the way Massignon pursued themes that in some way linked the spiritual life of Muslims and Catholics [and enabled him to find] a congenial element in the veneration of Fatima, and consequently a special field of interest in the study of Shi'ite thought in many of its manifestations, or again in the community of Abrahamanic origins and such themes as the Seven Sleepers. His writings on these subjects have acquired from the qualities that he brought to them a permanent significance in Islamic studies. But just because of these qualities they are composed, as it were, in two registers. One was at the ordinary level of objective scholarship, seeking to elucidate the nature of the given phenomenon by a masterly use of established tools of academic research. The other was at a level on which objective data and understanding were absorbed and transformed by an individual intuition of spiritual dimensions. It was not always easy to draw a dividing line between the former and the transfiguration that resulted from the outpouring of the riches of his own personality.

There is a hint here that Catholics are more likely to be drawn to a study of "the veneration of Fatima" than Protestants, but there is no mistaking Gibb's suspicion of anyone who blurred the distinction between "objective" scholarship and one based on (even an elaborate) "individual intuition of spiritual dimensions." Gibb was right, however, in the next paragraph of the obituary to acknowledge Massignon's "fertility" of mind in such diverse fields as "the symbolism of Muslim art, the structure of Muslim logic, the intricacies of medieval finance, and the organization of artisan corporations"; and he was right also, immediately after, to characterize Massignon's early interest in the Semitic languages as giving rise to "elliptic studies that to the uninitiate almost rivalled the mysteries of the ancient Hermetica." Nevertheless, Gibb ends on a generous note, remarking that

for us, the lesson which by his example he impressed upon the Orientalists of his generation was that even classical Orientalism is no longer adequate without some degree of committedness to the vital forces that have given meaning and value to the diverse aspects of Eastern cultures.75

That, of course, was Massignon's greatest contribution, and it is true that in contemporary French Islamology (as it is sometimes called) there has grown up a tradition of identifying with "the vital forces" informing "Eastern culture"; one need only mention the extraordinary achievements of scholars like Jacques Berque, Maxime Rodinson, Yves Lacoste, Roger Arnaldez-all of them differing widely among themselves in approach and intention-to be struck with the seminal example of Massignon, whose intellectual impress upon them all is unmistakable.

Yet in choosing to focus his comments almost anecdotally upon Massignon's various strengths and weaknesses, Gibb misses the obvious things about Massignon, things that make him so different from Gibb and yet, when taken as a whole, make him the mature symbol of so crucial a development within French Orientalism. One is Massignon's personal background, which quite beautifully illustrates the simple truth of Lévi's description of French Orientalism. The very idea of "un esprit humain" was something more or less foreign to the intellectual and religious background out of which Gibb, like so many modern British Orientalists, developed: in Massignon's case the notion of "esprit," as an aesthetic as well as religious, moral, and historical reality, was something he seemed to have been nourished upon from childhood. His family was friendly with such people as Huysmans, and in nearly everything he wrote Massignon's early education in the intellectual ambience as well as the ideas of late Symbolisme is evident, even to the particular brand of Catholicism (and Sufi mysticism) in which he was interested. There is no austerity in Massignon's work, which is formulated in one of the great French styles of the century. His ideas about human experience draw plentifully upon thinkers and artists contemporary with him, and it is the very wide cultural range of his style itself that puts him in a different category altogether from Gibb's. His early ideas come out of the period of so-called aesthetic decadence, but they are also indebted to people like Bergson, Durkheim, and Mauss. His first contact with Orientalism came through Renan, whose lectures he heard as a young man; he was also a student of Sylvain Levi, and came to include among his friends such figures as Paul Claudel, Gabriel Bounoure, Jacques and Raissa Maritain, and Charles de Foucauld. Later he was able to absorb work done in such relatively recent fields as urban sociology, structural linguistics, psychoanalysis, contemporary anthropology, and the New History. His essays, to say nothing of the monumental study of al-Hallaj, draw effortlessly on the entire corpus of Islamic literature; his mystifying erudition and almost familiar personality sometimes make him appear to be a scholar invented by Jorge Luis Borges. He was very sensitive to "Oriental" themes in European literature; this was one of Gibb's interests, too, but unlike Gibb, Massignon was attracted primarily neither to European writers who "understood" the Orient nor to European texts that were independent artistic corroborations of what later Orientalist scholars would reveal (e.g., Gibb's interest in Scott as a source for the study of Saladin). Massignon's "Orient" was completely consonant with the world of the Seven Sleepers or of the Abrahamanic prayers (which are the two themes singled out by Gibb as distinctive marks of Massignon's unorthodox view of Islam): offbeat, slightly peculiar, wholly responsive to the dazzling interpretative gifts which Massignon brought to it (and which in a sense made it up as a subject). If Gibb liked Scott's Saladin, then Massignon's symmetrical predilection was for Nerval, as suicide, poète maudit, psychological oddity. This is not to say that Massignon was essentially a student of the past; on the contrary, he was a major presence in Islamic-French relations, in politics as well as culture. He was obviously a passionate man who believed that the world of Islam could be penetrated, not by scholarship exclusively, but by devotion to all of its activities, not the least of which was the world of Eastern Christianity subsumed within Islam, one of whose subgroups, the Badaliya Sodality, was warmly encouraged by Massignon.

Massignon's considerable literary gifts sometimes give his scholarly work an appearance of capricious, overly cosmopolitan, and often private speculation. This appearance is misleading, and in fact is rarely adequate as a description of his writing. What he wished deliberately to avoid was what he called "l'analyse analytique et statique de l'orientalisme,"76 a sort of inert piling up, on a supposed Islamic text or problem, of sources, origins, proofs, demonstrations, and the like. Everywhere his attempt is to include as much of the context of a text or problem as possible, to animate it, to surprise his reader, almost, with the glancing insights available to anyone who, like Massignon, is willing to cross disciplinary and traditional boundaries in order to penetrate to the human heart of any text. No modern Orientalist-and certainly not Gibb, his closest peer in achievement and influence-could refer so easily (and accurately) in an essay to a host of Islamic mystics and to Jung, Heisenberg, Mallarme, and Kierkegaard; and certainly very few Orientalists had that range together with the concrete political experience of which he was able to speak in his 1952 essay "L'Occident devant l'Orient: Primauté d'une solution culturelle."77 And yet his intellectual world was a clearly defined one. It had a definite structure, intact from the beginning to the end of his career, and it was laced up, despite its almost unparalleled richness of scope and reference, in a set of basically unchanging ideas. Let us briefly describe the structure and list the ideas in a summary fashion.

Massignon took as his starting point the existence of the three Abrahamanic religions, of which Islam is the religion of Ishmael, the monotheism of a people excluded from the divine promise made to Isaac. Islam is therefore a religion of resistance (to God the Father, to Christ the Incarnation), which yet keeps within it the sadness that began in Hagar's tears. Arabic as a result is the very language of tears, just as the whole notion of jihad in Islam (which Massignon explicitly says is the epic form in Islam that Renan could not see or understand) has an important intellectual dimension whose mission is war against Christianity and Judaism as exterior enemies, and against heresy as an interior enemy. Yet within Islam, Massignon believed he was able to discern a type of countercurrent, which it became his chief intellectual mission to study, embodied in mysticism, a road towards divine grace. The principal feature of mysticism was of course its subjective character, whose nonrational and even inexplicable tendencies were towards the singular, the individual, the momentary experience of participation in the Divine. All of Massignon's extraordinary work on mysticism was thus an attempt to describe the itinerary of souls out of the limiting consensus imposed on them by the orthodox Islamic community, or Sunna. An Iranian mystic was more intrepid than an Arab one, partly because he was Aryan (the old nineteenth-century labels "Aryan" and "Semitic" have a compelling urgency for Massignon, as does also the legitimacy of Schlegel's binary opposition between the two language families") and partly because he was a man seeking the Perfect; the Arab mystic, in Massignon's view, inclined towards what Waardenburg calls a testimonial monism. The exemplary figure for Massignon was al-Hallaj, who sought liberation for himself outside the orthodox community by asking for, and finally getting, the very crucifixion refused by Islam as a whole; Mohammed, according to Massignon, had deliberately rejected the opportunity offered him to bridge the gap separating him from God. Al- Hallaj's achievement was therefore to have achieved a mystical union with God against the grain of Islam.
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