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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.
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.
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.
With the untimely death of Edward W. Said in 2003, various academic and public intellectuals worldwide have begun to reassess the writings of this powerful oppositional intellectual. Figures on the neoconservative right have already begun to discredit Saids work as that of a subversive intent on slandering Americas benign global image and undermining its global authority. On the left, a significant number of oppositional intellectuals are eager to counter this neoconservative vilification, proffering a Said who, in marked opposition to the anti-humanism? of the great poststructuralist thinkers who were his contemporaries--Jacques Derrida, Jean-Francois Lyotard, Jacques Lacan, Louis Althusser, and Michel Foucault--reaffirms humanism and thus rejects poststructuralist theory._x000B__x000B_In this provocative assessment of Edward Saids lifework, William V. Spanos argues that Saids lifelong anti-imperialist project is actually a fulfillment of the revolutionary possibilities of poststructuralist theory. Spanos examines Said, his legacy, and the various texts he wrote--including Orientalism, Culture and Imperialism, and Humanism and Democratic Criticism--that are now being considered for their lasting political impact.
The Poet's Art and His Nation
In Mahmoud Darwish: The Poet’s Art and His Nation, Mattawa pays tribute to one of the most celebrated and well-read poets of our era. With detailed knowledge of Arabic verse and a firm grounding in Palestinian history, Mattawa explores the ways in which Darwish’s aesthetics have played a crucial role in shaping and maintaining Palestinian identity and culture through decades of warfare, attrition, exile, and land confiscation. Mattawa chronicles the evolution of his poetry, from a young poet igniting resistance in occupied land to his decades in exile where his work grew in ambition and scope. In doing so, Mattawa reveals Darwish’s verse to be both rooted to its place of longing and to transcend place, as it reaches for the universal and the human.
Reconfiguring Society and the Self
To explore the life of Mahmud Sami al-Barudi is to gain a nuanced perspective on the many facets—the perils and promises—of change in the rapidly modernizing Egypt of the nineteenth century. Al-Barudi, sole scion of a Turko-Circassian elite family that clung precariously to a legacy of position and power, turned his military education into a government career that ended with his elevation to the office of prime minister. He served briefly before the British invasion in 1882 put an end to Egypt’s independence for seventy years. As prime minister, al-Barudi focused on drafting and passing into law Egypt’s first constitution, an achievement that was summarily swept aside by the British occupation. Similarly, the prime minister’s efforts to modernize and improve the educational system were systematically undermined by the policies of colonial rule in the 1880s and 1890s. Although his reforms ultimately failed, al-Barudi was recognized among his contemporaries as the most consistent supporter of liberalism and eventually democratic representation and constitutionalism. For his boldness, he paid a price. He was exiled by the British to Ceylon for seventeen years and returned to Egypt in 1901 as a blind, prematurely aged, and broken man. Even before he made an impact as a political leader, al-Barudi had made a name for himself as the most original and adventurous poet of his generation. DeYoung charts the development of al-Barudi’s poetry through his youth, his career in government, his philosophical and elegiac reflections while in exile, and his return to Egypt at the beginning of a new century. Connecting the themes found in his more influential poems—among the more than 400 lyrics he composed—to the turbulent events of his political life and to his equally fierce desire to innovate artistically throughout his literary career, DeYoung offers a vivid portrait of one of the most influential pioneers of Arabic poetry.
Arabic Praise Poems to the Prophet Muhammad
Three of the most renowned praise poems to the Prophet, the mantle odes span the arc of Islamic history from Muhammad's lifetime, to the medieval Mamluk period, to the modern colonial era. Over the centuries, they have informed the poetic and religious life of the Arab and Islamic worlds. Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych places her original translations of the poems within the odes' broader cultural context. By highlighting their transformative power as speech acts and their ritual function as gift exchanges, this book not only demonstrates the relevance of these poems to contemporary scholarship but also reveals their power and beauty to the modern reader.
Through a series of close readings of twenty contemporary Arabic novels, Aghacy presents a mosaic of masculinities that challenges the generally held view of an essentialized archetypal Arab man and mirrors a contested vision of manliness where men figure in diverse sociocultural environments. This groundbreaking work reveals the volatile nature of masculinity and its inextricability from femininity.