May 11, 2000
Vol. 19 No. 16

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    Edward Said to visit University for public, private events

    By Arthur Fournier
    News Office

    Acclaimed theorist, literary critic and president of the Modern Language Association Edward Said[] will visit the University during the week of May 15 for a series of public and private events around the theme “Private Histories, Public Memories.”

    Homi Bhabha, the Chester D. Tripp Distinguished Service Professor in the Humanities, explained that the theme speaks centrally to Said’s scholarly and political preoccupations. “Said has the rare capacity to turn the personal and private into a narrative of public record,” said Bhabha, who first approached Said with the idea of a visit. “He is a public intellectual of the first rank, with remarkable political, journalistic and aesthetic talents for converting the deep wounds of historical experience into luminous prose and productive political principle,” he continued.

    Geoffrey Stone, University Provost and the Harry Kalven Jr. Distinguished Service Professor in the Law School, said Said’s work has challenged and changed cultural relations’ received understanding in a manner that profoundly affects disciplines across the humanities and social sciences.

    “His presence on our campus will be an impetus for reflection on the interplay of scholarship and activism and the role of academe in the political world,” Stone remarked.

    Said, University Professor of English and comparative literature at Columbia University, is widely recognized for his scholarship on the cultural impact of European imperialism. He is the author of such influential literary works as Orientalism (Random House, 1978), an examination of the way the West perceived the Islamic world, and Beginnings: Intention and Method (Basic Books, 1975), which focuses on the significance of an author’s choice of beginning. His visit to the University follows the publication of his critically lauded memoir, Out of Place (Knopf, 1999), which chronicles his life from early childhood in Palestine to his graduate student days at Harvard University.

    In addition to his literary and cultural pursuits, Said is widely known as the United States’ most outspoken advocate for the recovery of a Palestinian homeland. A prominent member of the Palestinian parliament-in-exile for 14 years, Said broke with Yasir Arafat in 1991, saying that the PLO lacked credibility and moral authority. His most recent publication, The End of the Peace Process: Oslo and After (Pantheon, 2000), is a collection of Said’s essays concerning the Middle East peace process.

    During his visit to campus, Said will participate in a roundtable discussion with Bhabha and Rashid Khalidi, Professor in Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday, May 16. Said will present “Humanism, the Cold War and After: The Shifting Context of Area Studies”––the keynote address at the capstone conference of the Regional Worlds project––at 5 p.m. Friday, May 19. Both the roundtable and keynote will take place in the Third Floor Lecture Hall of Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St., and are free and open to the public.

    Janel Mueller, Dean of the Humanities Division and the William Rainey Harper Professor in the College and English Language & Literature, said she expects Said’s participation in events on campus will engage audiences across a wide variety of viewpoints.

    “His always incisive and fearless mind and style empower his utterance and compel people to attend to him, even if they don’t always end up agreeing with him and his proposals,” explained Mueller.

    Said’s visit to Chicago has been made possible with support from the Sara H. Schaffner Lecturership endowment. The fund was established to bring to campus “a lecturer whose presence might have a catalytic affect upon the community of scholars and the advancement of knowledge.” In 1959, Joseph Halle Schaffner made the gifts that established the fund in memory of his mother.