The eclectic collection, numbering nearly 3,000 volumes, serves as a reflection of Said’s expansive range of intellectual pursuits. Selections from classic literature, music and fine arts share shelves with texts on politics, religion, and history. The collection grew as fellow scholars, such as Noam Chomsky and Cornel West, sent their own work to Said, often dedicating copies to him with personal inscriptions.
Said was a member of Columbia’s faculty from 1963-2003 and was the author of more than 20 books, including his most influential, Orientalism (1978), an in-depth examination of how the West perceived the East.
At the intersection of his roles as literary critic, author, and intellectual, Mariam C. Said said her husband believed, "it was the critic's responsibility to reveal the complicit link between culture and power and to develop alternative modes of analysis to resist injustice." The reading room includes the literature that underscores Said’s work in the realm of democracy and justice.
“The reading room bearing his name will continue to make his intellectual presence magnetic to students and scholars from all over the world,” said Akeel Bilgrami, Johnsonian Professor of Philosophy and Director of Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.
A selection of books with Said’s notes and marginalia will be housed with his papers in the Rare Books and Manuscript Library and made available for scholarly research.
In conjunction with the room opening, tonight features the Sixth Annual Edward W. Said Memorial Lecture, a series started in Said’s memory and maintained by universities around the world. Author and political commentator Ahdaf Soueif will speak on “Notes from an Egyptian Revolution.” For more information on the event, please visit The Heyman Center for the Humanities.