Legacies: Intention and Method


My essay begins with a probing of the continuities between Beginnings and Orientalism in an effort to understand, simultaneously, Said’s location of the intellectual and artistic legacies of Orientalism and the legacies of his own intellectual work. Legacies are related to beginnings in an obvious way: if beginnings signal the moment of production – the inauguration of a period, an episteme, or a discipline – legacies prolong that moment into the indefinite future. A field takes shape through the generative energy that propels the forward movement of ideas. Yet Said, always conscious of disciplinary knowledge systems that induced guild thinking, did not see himself as leaving legacies or founding schools of thought. If he had a method at all, it was one that refused methods, inducing dissent and skepticism in place of affirmations. He was far less interested in fields of study that critiqued Orientalism as a symptom of Western pathology than in those that analyzed the Gramscian “inventory of traces” left by Orientalism on works of the imagination. Said’s aesthetic pleasure intensified his resistance to systematized thinking, and it gave rise to his use of words like “hedonism” and “secularism” to describe a form of oppositional thinking that had creative sources.