Edward Said on the role of intellectuals and writers

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Sep 6 18:59:19 MDT 2001

The Nation

REVIEW | September 17, 2001

The Public Role of Writers and Intellectuals
by Edward Said

In everyday usage in the languages and cultures with which I am
familiar, a "writer" is a person who produces literature--that is, a
novelist, poet, dramatist. I think it is generally true that in all
cultures writers have a separate, perhaps even more honorific, place
than do "intellectuals"; the aura of creativity and an almost
sanctified capacity for originality (often vatic in scope and
quality) accrues to writers as it doesn't at all to intellectuals,
who with regard to literature belong to the slightly debased and
parasitic class of "critics." Yet at the dawn of the twenty-first
century the writer has taken on more and more of the intellectual's
adversarial attributes in such activities as speaking the truth to
power, being a witness to persecution and suffering, and supplying a
dissenting voice in conflicts with authority. Signs of the
amalgamation of one to the other would have to include the Salman
Rushdie case in all its ramifications; the formation of numerous
writers' parliaments and congresses devoted to such issues as
intolerance, the dialogue of cultures, civil strife (as in Bosnia and
Algeria), freedom of speech and censorship, truth and reconciliation
(as in South Africa, Argentina, Ireland and elsewhere); and the
special symbolic role of the writer as an intellectual testifying to
a country's or region's experience, thereby giving that experience a
public identity forever inscribed in the global discursive agenda.

full article: http://www.thenation.com/doc.mhtml?i=20010917&s=said

Louis Proyect, lnp3 at panix.com on 09/06/2001

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