Gender, Nation, and the Arabic Novel

Gender, Nation, and the Arabic Novel: Egypt, 1892-2008

Hoda Elsadda
Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 304
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  • Book Info
    Gender, Nation, and the Arabic Novel
    Book Description:

    A nuanced understanding of literary imaginings of masculinity and femininity in the Egytian novelGender studies in Arabic literature have become equated with women's writing, leaving aside the possibility of a radical rethinking of the Arabic literary canon and Arab cultural history. While the 'woman question' in the Arabic novel has received considerable attention, the 'male question' has gone largely unnoticed. Now, Hoda Elsadda bucks that trend.Foregrounding voices that have been marginalised alongside canonical works, she engages with new directions in the novel tradition.Sheds new light on key debates, including: >The project of nation-building in the modern periodThe process of inclusion and exclusion in canon formationThe geopolitics of definitions of national or cultural identity in the global worldThe conceptual discourses on gender and nationThe meaning of national identity in a global context

    eISBN: 978-0-7486-6918-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature, Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Series Editor’s Foreword
    (pp. vii-ix)
    Rasheed El-Enany

    It is a great pleasure to introduce the first volume of the ‘Edinburgh Studies in Modern Arabic Literature’ series. This new and unique series will, it is hoped, fill a glaring gap in scholarship in the field of modern Arabic literature. Its dedication to Arabic literature in the modern period, i.e. from the nineteenth century onwards, is what makes it unique among series undertaken by academic publishers in the English-speaking world. Individual books on modern Arabic literature in general or aspects of it have been, and continue to be, published sporadically. Series on Islamic studies and Arab/Islamic thought and civilisation...

  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. Note on Transliteration and Translation
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Introduction Gender, Nation, and the Canon of the Arabic Novel
    (pp. xiii-xlii)

    This study engages with the national canon of Arabic literature, using gender as a category of analysis. Two basic assumptions underlie the project. The first is that the canon of Arabic literature, particularly the novelistic canon, both reflects and constructs the ideas of nation and national identity in the modern period.¹ Th e second is that the nation, “an imagined community,” is gendered, and by extension, the canon is equally gendered. I use the concept of gender as defined by Joan Scott as “a constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes, and . . ....

  7. Part One

    • 1 Beginnings Discourses on Ideal Manhood and Ideal Womanhood
      (pp. 3-37)

      The second half of the nineteenth century in Egypt was a crucial period in the formation of discourses about the shape and directions of the modern nation in the making, and about the characteristics and identities of future citizens and their expected roles. The era raged with debates between various parties and factions in the media, in literary and cultural salons, in essays and articles published in magazines and journals, and in dedicated treatises and publications, as well as in fiction. More critical attention was given to the discussion of the role of women and their status in the new...

    • 2 The New Man Conflicting Masculinities in the Fiction of Haikal, al-Mazini, and al-Rafi‘i
      (pp. 38-58)

      In the previous chapter, I argued that discursive representations of the New Man were not just a subtext in representations of the New Woman, but that he was very much a construct that was overtly debated and contested. Mona Russell has suggested that the New Man emerged during the ‘Urabi Revolt of 1881–82, before the appearance of the New Woman and “the resulting occupation brought about his emasculation” (2004, 88). Yet her definition of the New Man is restricted to his political role and is contrasted to the personal or family demands initiated by the New Woman (166). Lisa...

    • 3 Tawfiq al-Hakim and the Civilizational Novel
      (pp. 59-74)

      Tawfiq al-Hakim (1898–1987) occupies a prominent place in the cultural history of the Arab world. His fictional as well as nonfictional writings have been at the center of the Arabic national canon. His literary oeuvre addressed key issues that occupied his generation, particularly the East/West agon and its imbrications with national projects of liberation and resistance. Like other members of the nahda literati, al-Hakim wrote novels that are autobiographical or semiautobiographical, where the protagonist is often his persona or mouthpiece, experiencing the dilemmas and challenges of a colonial encounter with Western civilization. Two of al-Hakim’s novels are based on...

  8. Part Two

    • 4 Naguib Mahfouz’s Trilogy A National Allegory
      (pp. 77-96)

      Naguib Mahfouz’s (1911–2006) Cairo Trilogy, Bayn al-qasrayn (1956; English translation, Palace Walk, 1990), Qasr al-shawq (1957; English translation, Palace of Desire, 1991) and al-Sukkariyyah (1957; English translation, Sugar Street, 1992,¹ is acknowledged as one of the masterpieces of the writer and a landmark in the history of the Arabic novel. His career is quite remarkable for its prolific output as well as its artistic development. His status and contribution to modern Arabic literature received international recognition in 1988 when he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature. The Trilogy, in particular, occupies a prominent position among his impressive oeuvre...

    • 5 Latifa al-Zayyat Gender and Nationalist Politics
      (pp. 97-118)

      Latifa al-Zayyat (1923–1996) occupiesa unique place in the Arabic cultural field. In the nationalist narrative, she is the exemplary committed Arab intellectual who participated in the national liberation movement against colonialism and continued her fight for freedom and justice throughout her career as a writer, academic, and political activist. Al-Zayyat’s involvement in political protest started at an early age, in 1946, when, still a student, she was elected secretary general of the National Committee of Students and Workers. In 1979, she cofounded and was president of the Committee for the Defense of National Culture, which consisted of a group...

    • 6 Defeated Masculinities in Sonallah Ibrahim
      (pp. 119-142)

      The second half of the 1960s ushered in a new era in the national history of Egypt, and new imaginings of nationhood and belonging. The national dream of modernization and independence from colonialism, which had climaxed in 1952 with the revolution by the Free Officers led by Gamal Abd al-Nasser, started to falter and gradually to dissipate. While Nasser continued to inspire the national dream of freedom and dignity, standing up to colonial exploitation, nationalizing the Suez Canal, implementing laws for land reform, and initiating large national projects such as the building of the Aswan Dam, signs of the dictatorial...

  9. Part Three

    • 7 The Personal Is Political Debating the New Writing in the 1990s
      (pp. 145-164)

      The literature of the 1990s” has become a phrase widely used to refer to new directions in writing in Egypt, spearheaded by a new generation of young men and women who consciously distinguished their literary production from that of previous generations. The controversial “new writing” triggered many debates about the relationship between the writer and society, and also about the definition and contours of the national canon of Arabic literature. Two literary debates erupted in Egypt in the 1990s about the literary production of this new generation of writers. The first revolved around the value of their writing from a...

    • 8 The Postcolonial Nomadic Novel
      (pp. 165-189)

      Nations as imagined communities are nevertheless constructed geographically and historically, leading to the creation of borders and the demarcation of frontiers. Similarly, the discursive construction of nations and gendered national identities is predicated on the erection of boundaries premised on the difference between the self and the other. Said has pointed out that the definition of the national self is most of the time contingent on opposition with the foreign other, leading to his insight about Orientalism as “a style of thought based upon an ontological and epistemological distinction made between ‘the Orient’ and (most of the time) ‘the Occident’”...

    • 9 Liminal Spaces/Liminal Identities Hamdi Abu Golayyel, Ahmed Alaidy, and Muhammad ‘Ala’ al-Din
      (pp. 190-212)

      The contemporary literary scene in Egypt is rich, vibrant, and very diverse. A wide and largely inclusive space for literary experimentation and new voices blossomed in the 1990s. The new millennium brought with it more innovation, more diversity, and much iconoclasm. Newcomers to the literary field challenge established norms and traditions and interrogate the canonical national imaginary. In this chapter I will examine three novels that explore new gendered identities occupying liminal spaces, physically, psychologically, and existentially. Hamdi Abu Golayyel’s Lusus mutaqa‘idun (2001; English translation, Thieves in Retirement, 2006) is the story of a marginalized community of men and women...

    • Postscript After Tahrir: Imagining Otherwise
      (pp. 213-214)

      The guiding questions for this book have been: what are the implications of rethinking the history of the Arabic novel, taking into consideration gender as a category of analysis? What processes of inclusion and exclusion were in place owing to the dominance of normative representations of gendered roles by national elites? How were these dominant representations contested and negotiated by men and women writers? How have literary imaginings of a gendered nationhood shaped debates about national identity throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first? And finally, how has the shift to a transnational condition in the twenty-first century affected...

  10. References
    (pp. 217-240)
  11. Index
    (pp. 241-262)