Robert JC Young

Robert JC Young is Julius Silver Professor of English and Comparative Literature at New York University. From 1989-2005 he was Professor of English and Critical Theory at Oxford University and a fellow of Wadham College. He earned his B.A., M.A., and D.Phil. degrees in English from Exeter College, Oxford University. His books include White Mythologies: Writing History and the West (1990); Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Culture, Theory and Race (1995); Torn Halves: Political Conflict in Literacy and Cultural Theory (1996); Postcolonialism: An Historical Introduction (2001); Postcolonialism: A Very Short Introduction (2003); The Idea of English Ethnicity (2008). He is also the Editor of Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies and was a founding editor of The Oxford Literary ReviewMore information

 Abstract

Edward Said’s Palestine: Writing, Photography, and Representation

How does a country disappear? How can a country disappear? In 1983 the UN prohibited any writing from accompanying an exhibition of Jean Mohr’s photographs of Palestine that had been commissioned by Edward Said. Said’s After the Last Sky (1986) formed a response to that injunction against a scriptory Palestine, and developed into his first autobiographical account that sought to retrieve in writing a living actuality in the cultural memory of Palestine. How to represent a country that had been there since Roman times but had never been a country as such in the modern sense, and which in the twentieth century became another country altogether? How to represent what was once there, is still there and is no longer there? In 1975 Said characterised the representational relation between words and things with the unexpected word “molestation”. Said’s lifelong preoccupation with the question and problems of representation and its conceptual limits can be considered and rethought from the perspective of the complex intertwining of memory with the trauma of loss and the oblivion of a people. In this talk I will analyse the ways in which representation always proved more than a theoretical or philosophical problem for Said, and in particular the extent to which it was animated by “the problem of writing about and representing—in all senses of the word—Palestinians”. 

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