Abstract

Devotees of operatic silliness will recall how Anna Russell, in her music hall routine explaining the convoluted plot of Wagner's Ring, prepares her audience for the reappearance of that disgusting dwarf Allllberic (“ten hours after the damned opera begins”), and leans forward conspiratorially to deliver her long-awaited line: “I'm not making this UP, you know!” And anyone who supposes that Edward W. Said, Parr Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Columbia, is simply fabricating something in his book Orientalism; is taking oblique potshots at the academic establishment out of misdirected political dissatisfaction with the situation in the eastern Mediterranean; is presuming to speak of what he does not know professionally; is fulminating about a nastiness peculiar to Islamic studies; is attributing to innocent scholars the unlikely or unintended motive to control the object of their scholarship; or, finally, is saying nothing of relevance to practitioners of other disciplines or students of other areas—anyone who harbors such suspicions may wish to consider the manner and substance of the following two passages, chosen from among documents that I happen to have seen in the past several weeks:

In Japan we have no Nineveh or Babylon to disentomb, no Jerusalem to uncover of its superincumbent debris, in order to identify its ancient topography, no Ilium that was, to bring to light, after the oblivion of the ages, nor ancient ruins of any kind whatever to interest the antiquary.

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