Martin Vega

Comparative Literature

Martin Vega has used research to develop three important qualities: his critical-thinking skills, the ability to structure an argument, and an ethical awareness of cultural interplay. His interest in literary critic Edward Saidís concept of worldliness inspired Martin to trace Saidís development from his early works to the later, more political, works for which he is better known. Martin graduated from UCI in Spring 2005 and plans to work for a year or two before applying to graduate school. He enjoys playing basketball and golf, and likes to critique old films with his roommate. triangle.gif (504 bytes)




This paper tracks the antecedents to Edward Saidís concept of worldliness and considers the challenges this concept presents to humanistic assumptions. A literary critic and avowed humanist, Said delivered his signature concept of worldliness in The World, the Text, and the Critic (1983). As he developed this concept, Said took part in the critical uptake of ďtheoryĒ in America in the 1960s and 1970s. In particular, this paper considers Saidís use of existentialist phenomenology in his dissertation, published as Joseph Conrad and the Fiction of Autobiography (1966); his use of poststructuralism in Beginnings (1975); and his use of Foucaultís Discourse theory in Orientalism (1978), a foundational text in postcolonial scholarship. Both phenomenological and Discourse theories contain specific and different notions about being in the world. In taking up these theories, Said works through issues of individuality and textuality that complicated the claims of humanism in the second half of the twentieth century. Said focuses on these issues in developing his concept of worldliness in the 1970s and 1980s. In presenting this concept, Said affirms the need for a more politically aware criticism in the contemporary, postcolonial world. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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Faculty Mentor                                                                                                                

Jane O. Newman

School of Humanities

This project is evidence of Martin Vegaís real commitment to taking an innovative and potentially controversial position on the already quite controversial Said, who was best known for his political activities on behalf of the Palestinian people. Rather than going the conventional route of looking to Saidís path breaking book, Orientalism (1978) for the roots of Saidís political criticism, Vega chooses to examine Saidís pre-Orientalism work for evidence of how the French literary and philosophical theory hitting the United States in the 1960s and 70s gave him the building blocks of his later concepts of ďworldlinessĒ and secular humanism. It was as a result of working with Vega that I began to plan a graduate seminar on the role of the humanist critic in politics and to conceptualize a book on the intellectual genealogy of Saidís work. This is intersegmental research at its best, linking the work of undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty in innovative ways. triangle.gif (504 bytes)

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