This essay traces the historicity of a single non-European literary critical idiom by addressing the modes in which “founding” and “subsequent” texts in literature and in criticism both form and interrupt the possibility of speaking of literature as an object. Focusing upon selected writings of Butros al-Bustani (1819–83) and Muhammad al-Muwaylihi (1858–1930), this essay considers the separations that attend the institutionalization of Arabic literary studies—between the old and the new, the modern and the classical, the secular and the religious, and more—and that give literature to appear as an object of study even as they compel what is more idiomatic in literature to withdraw and disappear.