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.
Wanderlust: Travel Literature of Egypt and the Middle East
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The Arabian Nights in Comparative ContextFerial J. Ghazoul
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....read more
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The Imaginary and the Documentary: Cultural Studies in Literature, History, and the Arts
Edited by Ferial Ghazoul 75
The Imaginary and the Documentary: Cultural Studies in Literature, History, and the ArtsEdited by Ferial 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....read more
The Language of the Self: Autobiographies and Testimonies
Edited by Ferial Ghazoul 75
The Language of the Self: Autobiographies and TestimoniesEdited by Ferial 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....read more
Committed to Disillusion
Activist Writers in Egypt from the 1950s to the 1980s
David DiMeo 35
Activist Writers in Egypt from the 1950s to the 1980sDavid DiMeo
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....read more
8 October 2016
Archaeology of Literature: Tracing the Old in the New
Edited by Ferial Ghazoul 75
Archaeology of Literature: Tracing the Old in the NewEdited by Ferial 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....read more