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Armstrong, R.H. (2005). Contrapuntal Affiliations: Edward Said and Freud's Moses: Freud and the Non-European. Edward Said. London: Verso, 2003. 84 pp. $12.92.. Am. Imago, 62(2):235-257.

(2005). American Imago, 62(2):235-257

Review Essay

Contrapuntal Affiliations: Edward Said and Freud's Moses: Freud and the Non-European. Edward Said. London: Verso, 2003. 84 pp. $12.92.

Review by:
Richard H. Armstrong

Edward Said's penultimate book is the text of a lecture on “Freud and the non-European” delivered under controversial circumstances in London toward the end of his life. The original lecture took place on December 6, 2001, and he died September 25, 2003. The text is a classic example of Said's “contrapuntal” reading of an author, by which he extracts a work—in this case, Moses and Monotheism—from its original time and place and reinserts it among the newly constellated quandaries of our own day. More specifically, Said reads Freud's strange book on the origins of Judaic monotheism as a meditation on heterogeneous identity, one that he casts in the teeth of an Israeli culture allegedly bent on essentializing an exclusively Jewish and Western history for the region of Palestine. Whereas Freud strove to create a deep psychological description of anti-Semitism in Moses by mounting an alternative history of Judaism, Said turns the book more pointedly into an admonitory work that is at heart anti-Zionist. The most biting statement to this effect is worth citing in full:

Quite differently from the spirit of Freud's deliberately provocative reminders that Judaism's founder was a non-Jew, and that Judaism begins in the realm of Egyptian, non-Jewish monotheism, Israeli legislation countervenes, represses, and even cancels Freud's carefully maintained opening out of Jewish identity towards its non-Jewish background. The complex layers of the past, so to speak, have been eliminated by official Israel.

[This is a summary or excerpt from the full text of the book or article. The full text of the document is available to subscribers.]

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