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Literature > Middle Eastern Literature
Two Qajar Tracts
At the close of the nineteenth century, modern ideas of democracy and equality were slowly beginning to take hold in Iran. Exposed to European ideas about law, equality, and education, upper- and middle-class men and women increasingly questioned traditional ideas about the role of women and their place in society. In apparent response to this emerging independence of women, an anonymous author penned The Education of Women, a small booklet published in 1889. This guide, aimed at husbands as much as at wives, instructed women on how to behave toward their husbands, counseling them on proper dress, intimacy, and subservience. One woman, Bibi Khanom Astarabadi, took up the author’s challenge and wrote a refutation of the guide’s arguments. An outspoken mother of seven, Astarabadi established the first school for girls in Tehran and often advocated for the rights of women. In The Vices of Men, she details the flaws of men, offering a scathing diatribe on the nature of men’s behavior toward women. Astarabadi mixes the traditional florid style of the time with street Persian, slang words, and bawdy language. This new edition, the first to be translated into English, faithfully preserves the style and irreverent tone of the essays. The two texts, together with an introduction and afterword situating both within the customs, language, and social life of Iran, offer a rare candid dialogue.
Illness and Disability in Modern Arabic Literature
Although there is a history of rich, complex, and variegated representations of female illness in Western literature over the last two centuries, the sick female body has traditionally remained outside the Arab literary imagination. Hamdar takes on this historical absence in The Female Suffering Body by exploring how both literary and cultural perspectives on female physical illness and disability in the Arab world have transformed in the modern period. In doing so, she examines a range of both canonical and hitherto marginalized Arab writers, including Mahmoud Taymur, Yusuf al-Sibai, Ghassan Kanafani, Naguib Mahfouz, Ziyad Qassim, Colette Khoury, Hanan al-Shaykh, Alia Mamdouh, Salwa Bakr, Hassan Daoud, and Betool Khedair. Hamdar finds that, over the course of sixty years, female physical illness and disability has moved from the margins of Arabic literature—where it was largely the subject of shame, disgust, or revulsion—to the center, as a new wave of female writers have sought to give voice to the “female suffering body.”
Embodying Human Rights in World Literature
Over the past fifty years, debates about human rights have assumed an increasingly prominent place in postcolonial literature and theory. Writers from Salman Rushdie to Nawal El Saadawi have used the novel to explore both the possibilities and challenges of enacting and protecting human rights, particularly in the Global South. In Fictions of Dignity, Elizabeth S. Anker shows how the dual enabling fictions of human dignity and bodily integrity contribute to an anxiety about the body that helps to explain many of the contemporary and historical failures of human rights, revealing why and how lives are excluded from human rights protections along the lines of race, gender, class, disability, and species membership. In the process, Anker examines the vital work performed by a particular kind of narrative imagination in fostering respect for human rights. Drawing on phenomenology, Anker suggests how an embodied politics of reading might restore a vital fleshiness to the overly abstract, decorporealized subject of liberal rights.
Each of the novels Anker examines approaches human rights in terms of limits and paradoxes. Rushdie's Midnight's Children addresses the obstacles to incorporating rights into a formerly colonized nation's legal culture. El Saadawi's Woman at Point Zero takes up controversies over women's freedoms in Islamic society. In Disgrace, J. M. Coetzee considers the disappointments of post-apartheid reconciliation in South Africa. And in The God of Small Things, Arundhati Roy confronts an array of human rights abuses widespread in contemporary India. Each of these literary case studies further demonstrates the relevance of embodiment to both comprehending and redressing the failures of human rights, even while those narratives refuse simplistic ideals or solutions.
A Global Reception of the Rubáiyát
The Persian poet, mathematician, and astronomer ‘Umar Khayyám (1048-1131), is best known for his remarkable and highly influential poem cycle, “The Rubáiyát”. These poems, of which there are nearly a thousand, have been used in contemporary Iran as resistance literature, symbolizing the secularist voice in cultural debates. Offering a unique overview of a selection of poems, this anthology collects eighteen essays on the history of the reception of the celebrated work in various literary translations and editions, exploring how Khayyám’s philosophy as presented in his poetry has inspired generations of poets, novelists, painters, musicians, calligraphers, filmmakers, and freethinkers
Shakespeare's Prince and Nasser's Ghost
For the past five decades, Arab intellectuals have seen themselves in Shakespeare's Hamlet: their times "out of joint," their political hopes frustrated by a corrupt older generation. Hamlet's Arab Journey traces the uses of Hamlet in Arabic theatre and political rhetoric, and asks how Shakespeare's play developed into a musical with a happy ending in 1901 and grew to become the most obsessively quoted literary work in Arab politics today. Explaining the Arab Hamlet tradition, Margaret Litvin also illuminates the "to be or not to be" politics that have turned Shakespeare's tragedy into the essential Arab political text, cited by Arab liberals, nationalists, and Islamists alike.
On the Arab stage, Hamlet has been an operetta hero, a firebrand revolutionary, and a muzzled dissident. Analyzing productions from Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, and Kuwait, Litvin follows the distinct phases of Hamlet's naturalization as an Arab. Her fine-grained theatre history uses personal interviews as well as scripts and videos, reviews, and detailed comparisons with French and Russian Hamlets. The result shows Arab theatre in a new light. Litvin identifies the French source of the earliest Arabic Hamlet, shows the outsize influence of Soviet and East European Shakespeare, and explores the deep cultural link between Egypt's Gamal Abdel Nasser and the ghost of Hamlet's father.
Documenting how global sources and models helped nurture a distinct Arab Hamlet tradition, Hamlet's Arab Journey represents a new approach to the study of international Shakespeare appropriation.
Some images inside the book are unavailable due to digital copyright restrictions.
Jews, Arabs, and the Limits of Separatist Imagination
Partition--the idea of separating Jews and Arabs along ethnic or national lines--is a legacy at least as old as the Zionist-Palestinian conflict. Challenging the widespread "separatist imagination" behind partition, Gil Hochberg demonstrates the ways in which works of contemporary Jewish and Arab literature reject simple notions of separatism and instead display complex configurations of identity that emphasize the presence of alterity within the self--the Jew within the Arab, and the Arab within the Jew. In Spite of Partition examines Hebrew, Arabic, and French works that are largely unknown to English readers to reveal how, far from being independent, the signifiers "Jew" and "Arab" are inseparable.
In a series of original close readings, Hochberg analyzes fascinating examples of such inseparability. In the Palestinian writer Anton Shammas's Hebrew novel Arabesques, the Israeli and Palestinian protagonists are a "schizophrenic pair" who "have not yet decided who is the ventriloquist of whom." And in the Moroccan Jewish writer Albert Swissa's Hebrew novel Aqud, the Moroccan-Israeli main character's identity is uneasily located between the "Moroccan Muslim boy he could have been" and the "Jewish Israeli boy he has become." Other examples draw attention to the intricate linguistic proximity of Hebrew and Arabic, the historical link between the traumatic memories of the Jewish Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakbah, and the libidinal ties that bind Jews and Arabs despite, or even because of, their current animosity.
Israeli Arab and Jewish Writers Re-Visioning Culture
Despite the tragic reality of the continuing Israeli-Arab conflict and deep-rooted beliefs that the chasm between Israeli Jews and Israeli Arabs is unbridgeable, this book affirms the bonds between the two communities. Rachel Feldhay Brenner demonstrates that the literatures of both ethnic groups defy the ideologies that have obstructed dialogue between the two peoples.
Brenner argues that literary critics have ignored the variety and the dissent in the novels of both Arab and Jewish writers in Israel, giving them interpretations that embrace the politics of exclusion and conform with Zionist ideology. Brenner offers insightful new readings that compare fiction by Jewish writers Amos Oz, A.B. Yehoshua, David Grossman, and others with fiction written in Hebrew by such Arab-Israeli writers as Atallah Mansour, Emile Habiby, and Anton Shammas. This parallel analysis highlights the moral and psychological dilemmas faced by both the Jewish victors and the Arab vanquished, and Brenner suggests that the hope for release from the historical trauma lies—on both sides—in reaching an understanding with and of the adversary.
Drawing upon the theories of Walter Benjamin, Jacques Lacan, Sigmund Freud, Emanuel Levinas, and others, Inextricably Bonded is an innovative and illuminating examination of literary dissent from dominant ideology.
Invective, Satirical and Burlesque Poetry from the Origins to the Timurid Period (10th to 15th century)
Poetry that uses satire, invective, and burlesque to criticize social, political, and cultural life has been a vital part of Persian literature for centuries. This anthology brings together some of the most impressive, important, and, crucially, irreverent poetry from major and minor poets from the earliest days of Persian poetry through the death of Jâmi in 1492, the moment when the classical era of Persian poetry ended.
Mutilation and Aesthetic Form, al-Shidyaq to Darwish
In a series of exquisite close readings of Arabic and Arab Jewish writing, Jeffrey Sacks considers the relation of poetic statement to individual and collective loss, the dispossession of peoples and languages, and singular events of destruction in the nineteenth, twentieth, and twenty-first centuries. Addressing the work of Mahmoud Darwish, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Elias Khoury, Edmond Amran El Maleh, Shimon Ballas, and Taha Husayn, Sacks demonstrates the reiterated incursion of loss into the time of life—losses that language declines to mourn. Language occurs as the iteration of loss, confounding its domestication in the form of the monolingual state in the Arabic nineteenth century’s fallout.Reading the late lyric poetry of the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish in relation to the destruction of Palestine in 1948, Sacks reconsiders the nineteenth century Arabic nahda and its relation to colonialism, philology, and the European Enlightenment. He argues that this event is one of catastrophic loss, wherein the past suddenly appears as if it belonged to another time. Reading al-Shidyaq’s al-Saq ‘ala al-saq (1855) and the legacies to which it points in post-1948 writing in Arabic, Hebrew, and French, Sacks underlines a displacement and relocation of the Arabic word adab and its practice, offering a novel contribution to Arabic and Middle East Studies, critical theory, poetics, aesthetics, and comparative literature.Drawing on writings of Jacques Derrida, Walter Benjamin, Avital Ronell, Judith Butler, Theodor Adorno, and Edward W. Said, Iterations of Loss shows that language interrupts its pacification as an event of aesthetic coherency, to suggest that literary comparison does not privilege a renewed giving of sense but gives place to a new sense of relation.