Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-5c569c448b-4wdfl Total loading time: 0.683 Render date: 2022-07-03T16:16:31.728Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "shouldUseShareProductTool": true, "shouldUseHypothesis": true, "isUnsiloEnabled": true, "useRatesEcommerce": false, "useNewApi": true } hasContentIssue true

20 - Counterpoint

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  13 July 2019

Siobhán Shilton
Affiliation:
University of Bristol
Get access

Summary

In Culture and Imperialism (1994 [1993]) Edward Said theorizes a ‘contrapuntal’ reading practice whereby the critic interprets a text with a ‘simultaneous awareness’ of both colonial and counter-colonial themes (see colonialism). Distinct from comparative reading, this method specifically allows an ‘alternate privileging’ and interplay of these themes, in a manner similar to counterpoint in music. The intention is to destabilize the hierarchy frequently perpetuated by readings that obscure counterimperial voices. Said's earlier text, Orientalism (1995 [1978]), was criticized as an example of such a reading (Porter 1983; Ahmad 1992). His development of counterpoint in Culture and Imperialism is part of his response to such criticism. As Catherine McGlennan-Martin (2001, 45) states, Said's definition of counterpoint remains hazy, and no working model for a contrapuntal approach is actually provided (52–53). Said reads Jane Austen's Mansfield Park from the point of view of the Bertram's Antigua plantation, which suggests that contrapuntal reading requires only a single text (Said 1994 [1993], 69–70). However, elsewhere in Culture and Imperialism, he implies that texts should be read together (see McGlennan-Martin 2001, 43–44). Despite this, both methods implicitly advanced by Said can be drawn upon productively in critical approaches to travel literature, and indeed to other texts, produced in colonial and post-independence contexts.

A contrapuntal reading, in such contexts, might involve a direct comparison of contemporaneous narratives of journeys by travellers from a former imperial ‘centre’ or ‘periphery’. Alternatively, a single text can be analysed in the light of representations of journeys which evidence a different history of empire and travel at the same historical moment, following the method suggested by Said's reading of Austen's Mansfield Park. Such readings might explore journeys in opposite directions, or along the same vector – southward or northward. They highlight the specificity of the notion and experience of travel for those from former colonies, raising questions as to whether the journeys of immigrants, exiles or refugees can be called ‘travel’, and how the landscapes and people they depict renegotiate the familiar tropes of ‘exoticism’ (see exotic). Either contrapuntal reading method enables a mutual illumination of alternative, yet ‘intertwined’, European and non-European histories and representations of colonialism and the journeys on which this depended.

Type
Chapter
Information
Keywords for Travel Writing Studies
A Critical Glossary
, pp. 57 - 59
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2019

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×