This issue of Alif explores the lyrical drive in its myriad manifestations: its formal presence in poems, epics and songs; and its informal dissemination in narratives, philosophy, painting, calligraphy, music and even in broken and discarded objects. The issue covers many languages and touches on a variety of cultures: Mesopotamian, Nile Valley, Greco-Roman; South African and North African; English and Irish; Greek and French; American and Arabic; Persian and Turkish; Urdu and German. Beside academic articles, this issue includes creative essays, poetry and art—all combine to analyze or embody the lyrical impulse.
The Language of the Self: Autobiographies and Testimonies
Edited byFerial Ghazoul
Autobiography is a protean genre: it covers so many forms and styles. When narrating one’s life, the narrator has to choose what he or she considers to be relevant and decisive. Beside the differences on what is fundamental in a life, the notion of the Self is culturally defined and thus varies from one place to another. The author of an autobiographical text may express only a fragment of his or her life, follow a thread in the trajectory through reminiscences, memoir, diaries, testimony, interview,letters, poems, etc. The author may declare openly that he or she is identical with the protagonist or may give the principal character a different name or no name. The author may depict private or public events, at times taking imaginative license or even including fantastic motifs. Autobiographical discourse is not only culturally conditioned; it is also symptomatic of the cultural moment. Thus it is important to explore the varieties of self-presentation, and not assume a fixed paradigm. In this revisionist spirit that looks for different and alternative ways of recording one’s life, Alif presents the autobiographical drive in multiple contexts: ancient and contemporary Egyptian; nineteenth-century and twentieth-century Arab, Moroccan, and Iraqi; South African and West African; Canadian and American; Palestinian and Sudanese; English and Irish; and even that of a hybrid background Chinese American and Algerian French. There has been a tremendous surge in autobiographical writing in recent years, and the field has been redefined by literary and cultural critics. From James Olney (ed.), Autobiography: Essays Theoretical and Critical (1980) to Dwight Reynolds (ed.), Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition (2001), a range of works have appeared challenging established views and approaches on the subject of autobiography. The epigraphs (whose English translation is drawn from the works mentioned above) attest to the complexity and diversity of motivations in writing about one’s past life.
Studies in this collection treat varied aspects of the relationship between literary discourses and ideas of the sacred in different cultures and epochs. Contributions by established and emerging scholars from the Arab world, South Asia, Europe, and North America examine issues such as the treatment of the sacred in literary texts and traditions, the literary dimensions of sacred texts, the impact of the sacred on literary imagination, the role of the literary in sacred experience, and the contestations between the respective projects of literature and the sacred over the constitution of cultural and social norms. Alif vol. 23 Contributors: English and French sections: Nasr Abu Zaid, Karen Campbell, Angelica DeAngelis, Markus Dressler, Michael Frishkopf, Scott Kugle, Heba Machhour, Olivier Sécardin, Marla Segol. Arabic section: Farid Abu Si’da, Boutros Hallaq, Ahmed Taher Hassanein, Anwar Ibrahim, Richard Jacquemond, Salah Kamel, Ali Mabrook, Sa’id Tawfiq.
Archaeology of Literature: Tracing the Old in the New
Edited byFerial Ghazoul
This issue of Alif investigates the different strata constituting texts, and the presence of older material (myths, classics, hymns, rituals, romance, philosophical fragments, etc.) as subtexts in literature. Articles explore the processes and modalities of such inclusions in a given work or the corpus of an author. The issue also includes critical essays on the nature of continuity and correspondence in plots, characters, and styles as well as redeployment of older motifs in modern and postmodern works. Contributors: English section: Walid Bitar, Leslie Croxford, Ananya Kabir, Rondo Keele, Steven Nimis, John Rodenbeck, Edward Said, Doris Shoukri, Mounira Soliman, Steffen Stelzer. Arabic section: Mohammed ‘Ajina, Mohammed Birairi, Ayman Al-Desouky, Hasab al-Sheikh Ja‘far, Scheherazade Hassan, Sami Mahdi, Samia Mehrez, Mai Muzaffar/Rafa Nasiri, Lamis Al-Nakkash/Doris Shoukri, Nagwa Sha‘ban.
Wanderlust: Travel Literature of Egypt and the Middle East
Edited byFerial Ghazoul
This issue of Alif is devoted to travel and travel-writing in the broadest cross-cultural sense and focuses on what Mahmoud Manzalauoui has termed indigenes, visitants, sojourners, and habitants or metics, particularly in Egypt and the Middle East. It is a tribute to Middle East scholar and acclaimed travel writer John Rodenbeck. Essays in this issue take a variety of approaches, ranging from the historical to the analytical and philosophical. Contributors include Sahar Sobhi Abdel-Hakim, Fadwa Adbel Rahman, Michael Haag, JDF Jones, Ceza Kassem, Nabil Matar, Malise Ruthven, Sarah Searight, and Terry Walz.
This issue of Alif is published on the centennial anniversary of the founding the first Casa dei Bambini, a progressive educational institution for children, which seeks an alternative mode in bringing them up and nurturing their independence. An extract from the writings of the pedagogue of this innovative method, Maria Montessori, is here translated into Arabic for the first time. This collection covers the universe of children through interviews, photo-essays, testimonies, and articles in psychology, philosophy, law, music, fiction, media, poetry, and drama, addressing varied aspects of childhood: from Shakespeare for children to puppet theater in Egypt; from plays for dispossessed camp children to children enlisted in militias; from the affluent and leisurely childhood of Virginia Woolf to the wonders of the early years of a poet like Muhammad Afifi Matar. Essays also explore heroism and ethical values in children’s literature, as well as musical adaptations of children’s literature and the art and craft of making books for children. Alif Volume 27 Contributors: Abdelfattah Abusrour, Saeed Alwakeel, Nasseif Azmy, Mia Carter, Sharif S. Elmusa, Adib Fattal, Stephannie S. Gearhart, Ferial J. Ghazoul, Amanie Fawzi Habashi, Gala El Hadidi, Thomas Hartwell, Sayyid Hegab, Nadia El Kholy, Mohieddin al-Labbad, Muhammad Afifi Matar, Tanya M. Monforte, Maria Montessori, Yasmine Motawy, Naomi Shihab Nye, Michal Oklot, Mounira Soliman, Wiam El-Tamami, Matthew Whoolery.
This issue of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics addresses literary and artistic adaptations comprehensively. It offers articles on adaptations and appropriations of textual and visual material, focusing on adapting works from one genre to another, from one discourse to another, and from one medium to another. Transformation, modification, and ‘writing back’ in the process of adaptation are analyzed and contextualized. The volume covers adaptation of, among other things, novels into films, sacred texts into literary works, rituals into installation art, historical documents into narrative texts, art objects into poetic discourse, folk legends into dramatic works, ideological positions into fables, erotic verses into Sufi lessons, and e-mails and personal diaries into performances. The contributors are from Africa, America, Asia, and Europe. Between them they cover postcolonial adaptations, gendered appropriations, and literary rewriting of the past, as well as theoretical and esthetic dimensions of such artistic adaptations. Examples are given from Egyptian, Iraqi, Kuwaiti, Pakistani, American, British, Andalusian, and sub-Saharan African works. There are also translations related to the topic of adaptation, and testimonies by writers who have adapted works across genres. Alif 28.
This issue of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics explores how universities have always borne the task of questioning, and how the role and status of the university itself has been put into question: the very idea of a university has been open to contestation, revision, and crisis. In today’s world, how do universities preserve their capacity for social critique and independent thought when their campuses and research facilities have been both literally and figuratively infiltrated by corporate interests and “support”? How does the tradition of the liberal arts square with today’s technically—and vocationally—minded students? How do the university’s institutions and ideals, born in Medieval cultures inspired by classical learning, fare in a world where everything, education included, is computer mediated, virtualized, globalized? What is the role of literature in this struggle for identity, given that so many writers now make universities their professional home? Original articles addressing a variety of issues from differing disciplinary and theoretical points of view are included in this volume, illuminating higher education concerns in Egypt and the rest of the world. Contributors: Steve Nimis, Sara Nimis, Henry Giroux, Steve Germic, Karyn Ball, Barbara Harlow, John Kress, Peter Cook, Bob Frodeman, Bruce Foltz, Jennifer Rowland, Magda Hasabelnaby, Bayoumi Kandil, Muhsin Mahdi, Doaa Embabi, Madiha Doss, Mohammed Abul Ghar, Ali Mabrouk, Nasr Abu Zayd, Faten Morsy, Mona Tolba, Anwar Moghith, Kamal Mougheeth, Samy Soliman.
This issue of Alif focuses on trauma and loss and their presence in collective and individual memory. The question of traumatic events has been recognized in psychology, psychoanalysis, and literature, but scholarly studies have mostly concentrated on traumas enacted in the West—World Wars and the Holocaust. Contributors to this volume attempt to extend the field of trauma and memory studies to include other parts of the world: Algeria, Egypt, Iraq, Iran, India, Ireland, Lebanon, Palestine, Pakistan, multi-ethnic America, and ancient Greece. The Lebanese civil war or the Peloponnesian war, the Nakba of 1948 or the Naksa of 1967: the articles and personal testimonies in this issue explore the impact of such tragic events on literary genre, films, fiction, folk culture, poetry, drama, and visual arts. Alif: Journal of Comperative Poetics 30 Contributors: Nasr Hamid Abu-Zayd, Galal Amin, Gaber Asfour, Mohammed Berrada, Céza Kassem-Draz, Sabry Hafez, Barbara Harlow, Malak Hashem, Wolfhart Heinrichs, Richard Jacquemond, Andrew Rubin, Doris Enright-Clark Shoukri, and Hoda Wasfi.
The Imaginary and the Documentary: Cultural Studies in Literature, History, and the Arts
Edited byFerial Ghazoul
This issue of Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics is devoted to the intersection of the imaginary and the documentary, the fictional and the cultural in the three genres of literature (poetry, fiction, and drama), in history, in film (feature and documentary), in photography, in plastic arts, and in architecture. Collage in art, portrait paintings, political poetry, archival footage in films, the historical novel, and the metaphors of historiography are some of the examples that demonstrate the interfacing between the imaginary and the documentary. Subjectivity and ideology of the artist and scholar might be couched in a flight of fantasy or in a rational argument, but in both cases they are joined to a specific worldview that is analyzed and discussed. Contributors: Abdel Rahman El Abnoudy, Emad Abdel Latif, Saeed Alwakil, Tamim El Barghouti, Judith Butler, Safaa Fathy, Tahany El Gebaly, Ahmed Haddad, Sabry Hafez, Chouaib Halifi, Stuart Hall, Barbara Harlow, Ahmed Heakl, Jeffrey Herlihy, Ahmed Abdel Mo‘ty Higazi, Abdullah Ibrahim, Walid El Khachab, Jalal Uddin Khan, Hasna Lebbady, Iman Mersal, Helmi Salem, Stephanie Schwerter, Basheer El Sibaei, Larbi Touaf, John Carlos Rowe, Angela Vaupel, Elizabeth Wickett, Shaaban Yusuf.
This interdisciplinary issue of the literary journal Alif is devoted to the desert—as a geographical locus and symbolic image—and to various texts related to it, drawn from literature and the arts, history and anthropology, film and environmental studies. Scholars from the Middle East, Africa, Europe, and North America contribute articles in Arabic, English, and French related to the visual representation of the desert in medieval iconography and in contemporary cinema, in American poetry and in pre-Islamic poetics, in human geography and in sociological thought, in French novels and in Arabic novels, in religious traditions and in ecological approaches, in travel literature and in critical discourse. Includes contributions by Saeed Alwakeel, Saad El Bazei, Sharif Elmusa, Jehan Farouk, Naglaa Hassan, Abdullah Ibrahim, Salma Mobarak, Senayon Olaoluwa, Yasmine Ramadan, Nathalie Roman, Randa Sabry.
Examining late twentieth-century autobiographical writing by Arab women novelists, poets, and artists, this anthology explores the ways in which Arab women have portrayed and created their identities within differing social environments. Even as the collection dismantles standard notions of Arab female subservience, the works presented here go well beyond the confines of those traditional boundaries. The book explores the many routes Arab women writers have taken to speak to each other, to their readers, and to the world at large. Drawing from a rich body of literature, the essays collectively attest to the surprisingly lively and committed roles Arab women play in varied geographic regions, at home and abroad. These recent writings assess how the interplay between individual, private, ethnic identity and the collective, public, global world of politics has impacted Arab women’s rights.
Can a writer help to bring about a more just society? This question was at the heart of the movement of al-adab al-multazim, or committed literature, which claimed to dominate Arab writing in the mid-twentieth century. By the 1960s, however, leading Egyptian writers had retreated into disillusionment, producing agonized works that challenged the key assumptions of socially engaged writing. Rather than a rejection of the idea, however, these works offered reinterpretation of committed writing that helped set the stage for activist writers of the present. David DiMeo focuses on the work of three leading writers whose socially committed fiction was adapted to the disenchantment and discontent of the late twentieth century: Naguib Mahfouz, Yusuf Idris, and Sonallah Ibrahim. Despite their disappointments with the direction of Egyptian society in the decades following the 1952 revolution, they kept the spirit of committed literature alive through a deeply introspective examination of the relationship between the writer, the public, and political power. Reaching back to the roots of this literary movement, DiMeo examines the development of committed literature from its European antecedents to its peak of influence in the 1950s, and contrasts the committed works with those of disillusionment that followed. Committed to Disillusion is vital reading for scholars and students of Arabic literature and the modern history and politics of the Middle East.
Friendship: Representations and Cultural Variations
Edited byFerial Ghazoul
Friendship, though esteemed, has not been central in critical studies. It has been overshadowed by other bonding relationships. However, it figures as a privileged theme in classical, medieval, renaissance, and modern philosophy. More recently, sociological, anthropological, and psychological studies have explored the varied dimensions of friendship. Different cultures view friendship in various perspectives that intersect, contrast, and echo each other. In Middle Eastern, East Asian, European, and American thought, philosophers, jurists, and creative writers have explored the idea of friendship and their input is analyzed in this issue. Alif 36 foregrounds different ways of presenting friendship in diverse cultures and historical periods.
The articles in Alif 37 address the intersection of literature and journalism, in a wide variety of Arabophone, Francophone, Anglophone, and Latin American contexts, analyzing the literary in relation to an array of journalistic genres and forums, including the interview, investigative journalism, the questionnaire, the blogosphere, creative non-fiction and reportage, literary websites, cultural periodicals, the autobiographical essay, and writers’ opinion articles. Complemented by the testimonies of two journalist–littérateurs and an interview with an artist–poet–art critic, the studies present fresh aspects of Arab literary modernity, littérature engagée, the politics of reception and translation in cultural journalism, canon-formation in relation to journalism, the journalistic delineation of a literary generation’s profile, gender and censorship of creative writers, and revolution and civil strife.
As one of the first non-European journals to critically address the category of Weltliteratur bilingually from the perspective of the Global South, this special issue of Alif addresses this problem theoretically and empirically. The critical conversation about the problem of the category of Weltliteratur is not only extended beyond the European and North American sphere that has largely dominated and framed the discussion of Weltliteratur, but is juxtaposed formally in a way that permits us to understand that there are other “world literatures” that allow us to reexamine the contending theories, practices, and underlying assumptions of Weltliteratur. Essays in this volume emphasize in different ways the inherent tension between postcolonial studies and “world criticism,” and to that extent open up new realms for the discovery of new knowledges, new epistemes, modes of conversation, and communication.
Vernacular poetry and folktales, standardized Arabic, Persian, and Turkish, as well as literary works by Middle Easterners in different European languages offer a complex regional literary field. While comparative work among the “classical” traditions of these literatures is undertaken without comment, scholarship on their modern traditions is suspended between the exigencies of imperialism, nationalism, and academic parochialism. This issue of Alif is devoted to the exploration of those persistent ties and affinities, as well as to the attempt to recover and discover new or enduring linkages between literatures, languages, and cultures in a world where they are largely forgotten or wilfully ignored.
Arab women’s writing in the modern age began with ‘A’isha al-Taymuriya, Warda al-Yaziji, Zaynab Fawwaz, and other nineteenth-century pioneers in Egypt and the Levant. This unique study—first published in Arabic in 2004—looks at the work of those pioneers and then traces the development of Arab women’s literature through the end of the twentieth century, and also includes a meticulously researched, comprehensive bibliography of writing by Arab women. In the first section, in nine essays that cover the Arab Middle East from Morocco to Iraq and Syria to Yemen, critics and writers from the Arab world examine the origin and evolution of women’s writing in each country in the region, addressing fiction, poetry, drama, and autobiographical writing. The second part of the volume contains bibliographical entries for over 1,200 Arab women writers from the last third of the nineteenth century through 1999. Each entry contains a short biography and a bibliography of each author’s published works. This section also includes Arab women’s writing in French and English, as well as a bibliography of works translated into English. With its broad scope and extensive research, this book is an indispensable resource for anyone interested in Arabic literature, women’s studies, or comparative literature. Contributors: Emad Abu Ghazi, Radwa Ashour, Mohammed Berrada, Ferial J. Ghazoul, Subhi Hadidi, Haydar Ibrahim, Yumna al-‘Id, Su‘ad al-Mani‘, Iman al-Qadi, Amina Rachid, Huda al-Sadda, Hatim al-Sakr.
The Book of a Thousand and One Nights, better known as The Arabian Nights, is a classic of world literature and the most universally known work of Arabic narrative. Although much has been written about it, Professor Ghazoul’s analysis is the first to apply modern critical methodology to the study of this intricate and much-admired literary masterpiece. The author draws on a wealth of critical tools — medieval Arabic aesthetics and poetics, mythology and folklore, allegory and comedy, postmodern literary criticism, and formal and structural analysis — to explain the specific genius of the The Arabian Nights. The author describes and examines the internal cohesion of the book, establishing its morphology and revealing the dialectics of the frame-story and enframed cycles of narrative. She discusses various forms of narrative — folk epics, animal fables, Sindbad voyages, and demon stories — and analyzes them in relation to narrative works from India, Europe, and the Americas. Covering an impressive range of writings, from ancient Indian classics to the works of Shakespeare and the modern writers Jorge Luis Borges and John Barth, she places The Arabian Nights in the context of an ongoing storytelling tradition and reveals its influence on world literature.
Bringing together writings by Egyptians, Arabs, men and women, Muslims, Copts, and Jews, this rich selection maps out many of the changes in Cairo’s geopolitics and its urban fabric, while tracing spatial and social forms of polarization and new patterns of inclusion and exclusion within the expanding megacity. Through its thematic organization, The Literary Atlas of Cairo traces the developments that have taken place over a century in modes of literary production, and presents a unique historical cross-section of the actors within the Cairene literary field, to provide an unprecedented, original, and indispensable educational and research tool for scholars and students as well as a much wider readership interested in Egypt and Cairo in particular as one of the globe’s largest historic, multi-cultural urban centers.