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Trials of Arab Modernity

Literary Affects and the New Political

Tarek El-Ariss

Publication Year: 2013

Challenging prevalent conceptualizations of modernity--which treat it either as a Western ideology imposed by colonialism or as a universal narrative of progress and innovation--this study instead offers close readings of the simultaneous performances and contestations of modernity staged in works by authors such as Rifa'a al-Tahtawi, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Tayeb Salih, Hanan al-Shaykh, Hamdi Abu Golayyel, and Ahmad Alaidy. In dialogue with affect theory, deconstruction, and psychoanalysis, the book reveals these trials to be a violent and ongoing confrontation with and within modernity. In pointed and witty prose, El-Ariss bridges the gap between Nahda (the so-called Arab project of Enlightenment) and postcolonial and postmodern fiction.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-4


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

...kind of support that a junior faculty can only dream of. But my special thanks goes first to my editor, Helen Tartar, and to the editorial team at Fordham University Press; I’m grateful for the the Humanities Institute and its director, Pauline Strong, for pro-and Esther Raizen for their ongoing support. I’m also grateful to ...

Note on Translation and Transliteration

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pp. ix-14

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1. Introduction: Debating Modernity

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pp. 1-18

The events of Rashid al-Daif’s (b. 1945) novel Tablit al-Bahr (Paving over the sea) (2011) begin in 1860, following the sectarian massacres that claimed the lives of thousands in Lebanon and Syria and led to a French military intervention. Al-Daif’s main character, Faris, whose family survives the killing in Mount Lebanon...

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2. Fantasy of the Imam

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pp. 19-52

Adonis traces Arab literary modernity to Abu Nuwas (756–814), al-Mutanabbi (915–965), and other Abbasid poets who refigure jāhilī, or pre-Islamic poetry, by displacing it from the register of personal loss and sentiments and inscribing it in a universal human condition. This modernity is anchored in new urban...

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3. Aversion to Civilization

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pp. 53-87

Of all the questions that preoccupied Arab intellectuals in the nineteenth century, civilization was the most important. Arab thinkers engaged European theories of development, which examined the role of religion and social and political institutions in preventing or bringing about civilization. From despotic government...

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4. Staging the Colonial Encounter

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pp. 88-113

Literary representations of the Arab encounter with modernity in the “late Nahda period”1 often depicts the transformative experience of a male Arab student studying in France or England. This long and well-established genre includes Tawfiq al-Hakim’s (1898–1987) ʿUsfur min al-Sharq (Bird from the East)...

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5. Majnun Strikes Back

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pp. 114-144

Bareed Mistaӡjil: True Stories (Express mail) (2009) is an anonymously published collection of autobiographical writings by queer Lebanese women. In these essays, sexuality is at the core of identity formation, individuality, family struggle, and a slew of social and political forces cutting across class and religious backgrounds...

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6. Hacking the Modern

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pp. 145-171

With the proliferation of Arabic blogging, e-mailing, chatting, text messaging, and other forms of techno-writing, contemporary Arabic literature is undergoing a series of structural and linguistic transformations. Specifically, the encounter with the virtual and the effects of globalization are ushering in a new set of intertextual...

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7. Conclusion: Writing the New Political

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pp. 172-182

In this book I presented different articulations of modernity in Arabic travel narratives, novels, and experimental writing from the nineteenth century to the present. Starting with the staging of the Arab encounter with Europe, I challenged the reading of modernity (ḥadātha) as innovation (iḥdāth) in relation to tradition...


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pp. 183-210


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pp. 211-212


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pp. 213-226


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pp. 227-233

E-ISBN-13: 9780823251735
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823251711
Print-ISBN-10: 0823251713

Page Count: 248
Publication Year: 2013

Edition: Cloth

OCLC Number: 847623349
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Trials of Arab Modernity

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Arabic literature -- 20th century -- History and criticism.
  • Arabic literature -- 21st century -- History and criticism.
  • Literature, Experimental -- Arab countries -- History and criticism.
  • Modernism (Literature) -- Arab countries.
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