Between 1969 and 1979, Edward Said redefined American comparative literature, coining phrases, supplying a new critical pantheon (Vico, Schwab), and, above all, devising a method. Falling between generations and facing two different kinds of continental èèmigrèè——one philological, the other textualist——Said outmaneuvered the latter by reinterpreting the former. In a two-pronged move, he unleashed an arsenal of arguments against both new critical formalism and its latter-day avatars in ““theory.”” With these arguments, his authority was penetrating and atmospherically felt as he chipped away at the edifice of traditional comparative literature by emphasizing the situatedness of form and the transitive intelligence of humanist intellectuals.

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