Of Travelling Theories: A Opinion on Edward Said’s ‘Travelling Theory’

Theories, like timeless classics and even influential ideas, go around circulating across time, geography, situations and people. This is the concern of Edward Said‘s Travelling Theory which dealt with how theories go on in life and how they can be abused and misused. There are four stages of how a theory travels: point of origin; distance traveled; a set of condition; and full/partial accommodated/ incorporated idea.

He cautions that a theory can misread by a reader almost all the time. Oh, how terrible if a theory can be so misunderstood by one audience as time goes on. He went on to mention Lukacs’ History & Class Consciousness & Lucien Goldmann’s Le Dieu cache as examples. As Said has mentioned, to read a text/theory in a local & detailed view on how theories travel is to betray some fundamental uncertainty concerning delimiting a field of which a text/idea/theory might have belong to. One theory was somehow misread by one person and inspired another theory. There are some examples of why Lukacs’ theory was so misread years, situations & places later.  First & foremost, Lukacs was wrote his essay at the height of a struggle in Hungarian Soviet Republic in 1919, Goldmann was a historian at the Sorbonne in Paris, France after World War II at the time of the publishing of his own essay in 1955. Second, Lukacs’ class consciousness defies at the face of capitalism, Goldmann’s work, on the other hand, reflected the works of Pascal  and Racine.

It should be known that a text/ theory is always static, fluid & has mobility. Somehow, along the way, the Reader can get a theory/ text a wrong reading, something the author might get mad about. However, the author of this article will give her own opinion on this and how does distance can affect a theory.

It’s true that theories & ideas can’t stay in one place, in one time period for too long. Theories should go out to the rest of the world. They are there to reflect the author’s opinions & ideas. Everyone should know what was going on the life & situation of the author’s time, and sometimes they can reflect on it & compare it to their current situation. However, they can get misread by others: some take them literally, some just don’t get the whole idea. For example, religious extremists sometimes take their Holy Scripture too literally, to the point of actually harming the lives of so many people, even their own lives, as if they just don’t care at all… Sounds tragic, isn’t it? The idea is that one has to be careful when reading a text/ theory, not take them too literally nor think of it as a nuisance, nor even calling it blasphemous, nor lower its importance & relevance of its time as well as its relevance today.

The Author has no grudges towards the Theory involved, but felt it needs to expound on how misreading can occur in one’s mind & what are the full, known effects on the reader & the text itself. Then again, it’s one theory that this author doesn’t have to worry so much on…


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