by Henry Farrell on October 30, 2003

A quick addendum to my recent “post”: on bad academic writing; it turns out that “Steven Berlin Johnson”: was a student of Said. Which is quite an interesting intellectual trajectory. Johnson recalls that Said

bq. was largely responsible — some might say to blame — for importing French cultural theory into the American intellectual scene, particularly Foucault, who obviously had a huge influence on Orientalism. But he always resisted the inane wordplay and self-absorption that characterized so much of American theory in the eighties and early nineties. He absolutely despised “radical theorists” like Judith Butler, for instance. I remember him bristling anytime someone used the word “discourse” in one of our seminars — and I remember thinking at the time that I had first starting using the word myself after reading Orientalism during my freshman year. … on his best days, he was the most charismatic man I’ve ever met in my life — handsome, stylish, impossibly articulate, and surprisingly willing to take a joke at his own expense. (I used to tease him about his being indirectly responsible for unleashing Butler on the world).



PG 10.30.03 at 8:43 pm

There was something sort of post-modern — or maybe actually Renaissance — about how the main theme of Said’s life expressed itself in both his academic and political work.


David Sucher 10.30.03 at 8:51 pm

In the vein of Edward Said stories, here’s one of mine.


Timothy Burke 11.01.03 at 12:05 am

I like Steven Johnson’s work. But I think his intellectual history here is wrong on multiple levels, and gives vastly too much credit (or blame, depending on your views) to Said–an artifact, perhaps, of having studied with him.

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