This issue of Alif focuses on critical understandings of America beyond its frequent equation with the physical borders of the United States of America and the ideological jurisdiction of its official state. Critically exploring issues of transnationalism, globalization, ethnic pluralism, and cultural cross-fertilization, The Other Americas disavows narrow traditions of American exceptionalism and develops a conversation about the less visible “Americas” in the domestic and global senses, considering less wellknown—but no less central—cultural productions within the borders of the United States and beyond them. In addition to acknowledging the social, political, artistic, and literary vitality of the entire American hemisphere, the issue suggests an even more inclusive idea of the United States by highlighting oppositional cultural practices in the fields of literature, film, and performance. The issue presents versions and visions and variations of America that seek to interrogate national identity and broaden established definitions while suggesting new modes of inquiry into the U.S. as a place in conversation with others in the world. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 31.
New Paradigms in the Study of Modern “Middle Eastern” Literatures
Edited by Amy Motlagh 75
New Paradigms in the Study of Modern “Middle Eastern” LiteraturesEdited by Amy Motlagh
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....read more
30 October 2015
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
Literature and the Sacred
Edited by Shahab Ahmed 75
Literature and the SacredEdited by Shahab Ahmed
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....read more