European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean

European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean: Toward a New Philology and a Counter-Orientalism

Karla Mallette
Copyright Date: 2010
Pages: 328
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    European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean
    Book Description:

    Over the past decade, scholars have vigorously reconsidered the history of Orientalism, and though Edward Said's hugely influential work remains a touchstone of the discussion, Karla Mallette notes, it can no longer be taken as the final word on Western perceptions of the Islamic East. The French and British Orientalisms that Said studied in particular were shaped by the French and British colonial projects in Muslim regions; nations that did not have such investments in the Middle East generated significantly different perceptions of Islamic and Arabic culture. European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean examines Orientalist philological scholarship of southern Europe produced between the mid-nineteenth and mid-twentieth century. In Italy, Spain, and Malta, Mallette argues, a regional history of Arab occupation during the Middle Ages gave scholars a focus different from that of their northern European colleagues; in studying the Arab world, they were not so much looking on a distant and radically different history as seeking to reconstruct the past of their own nations. She demonstrates that in specific instances, Orientalists wrote their nations' Arab history as the origin of modern national identity, depicting Islamic thought not as exterior to European modernity but rather as formative of and central to it. Joining comparative insights to the analytic strategies and historical genius of philology, Mallette ranges from the complex manuscript history of the Thousand and One Nights to the invention of the Maltese language and Spanish scholarship on Dante and Islam. Throughout, she reveals the profound influences Arab and Islamic traditions have had on the development of modern European culture. European Modernity and the Arab Mediterranean is an engaging study that sheds new light on the history of Orientalism, the future of philology, and the postcolonial Middle Ages.

    eISBN: 978-0-8122-0526-8
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[viii])
  3. Chapter 1 Scheherazade among the Philologists (Paris, 1704)
    (pp. 1-33)

    I begin this book by posing a series of questions that I will not attempt to answer until the final chapters. In these pages I will describe the stages by which modern scholars proposed and defended a historical narrative that contradicts accepted histories of the origins of the European nations. The Orientalists whose work I survey traced a modern European national genius to a spark kindled by the Arabs who occupied the territory of the modern nation during the medieval past. They argued that European modernity, in all its splendor, emerged when Christian Europe coaxed this spark into a roaring...

  4. Chapter 2 Metempsychosis: Dante, Petrarch, and the Arab Middle Ages
    (pp. 34-64)

    Pietro valerga, born in 1821 in Liguria, took his vows as a Carmelite in 1837 and left for the Holy Land in 1845. He would remain in the East serving in various offices for the Carmelites for more than two decades; by 1868 he had returned to Rome, where he advised the Vatican Council on the Oriental Christian churches. In 1871, following the suppression of the monasteries in the Papal States, he applied for and received secularization, taking a job as professor of the Arabic language in Florence. During this period Valerga also tried his hand at various literary projects....

  5. Chapter 3 I nostri Saracini: Writing the History of the Arabs of Sicily
    (pp. 65-99)

    Historians typically preface the story of the rediscovery of Sicily’s Arab past by relating an episode in late eighteenth-century Sicilian history so notorious that it has earned not one but two epithets. Giuseppe Vella’s forgery of documents relating to the Muslim history of Sicily is regularly referred to as “l’arabica impostura,” the Arabic imposture, or—borrowing a phrase from a contemporary poem by Sicilian Giovanni Meli—the “minzogna Saracina,” or Saracen lie. The events in this oft-told tale can be summarized in few sentences: in 1783 Giuseppe Vella, a Maltese cleric living in Sicily, began to circulate curious historical documents...

  6. Chapter 4 The Ramparts of Europe: The Invention of the Maltese Language
    (pp. 100-131)

    We tend to think of the division of the Mediterranean into Muslim shores on the one hand and Christian on the other as a timeless organization of that contested space, or at least as old as the revelation that brought Islam into being. In fact, as medievalists well know, it took some centuries to hammer out this division of property that rulers, generals, and ambitious corsairs had sparred over since the emergence of Islam. Only during the sixteenth century did the Ottoman Turks assert authoritative control over the full sweep of the southern and eastern Mediterranean, soon after Christian kings...

  7. Chapter 5 The Life and Times of Enrico Cerulli
    (pp. 132-161)

    The sicilian orientalism of the nineteenth century was a thoroughly insular movement. Only Michele Amari left Sicily to study Arabic in the capital of nineteenth-century Orientalist scholarship, Paris; only Amari traveled to consult the great European collections of Arabic manuscripts; only Amari taught on the Italian peninsula. And he did not create a school. He trained a single student, Celestino Schiaparelli, but Schiaparelli published relatively little and left no successors.

    In Italy the evolution of Orientalist studies was affected by three factors in particular. First, although the oldest school of Orientalism in Europe was located in Italy—the Istituto Universitario...

  8. Chapter 6 Amalgams: Emilio García Gómez (s. xx), Alvarus (s. ix), and Philology after the Nation
    (pp. 162-197)

    Can the philological reading challenge the narratives of national history generated by traditional historicism? Once a philological analysis questions the place allocated to a text within a narrative of literary history, does it thereby compromise the structure of scientism upon which philology depends, the pedigree that guarantees the historical accuracy of the philological reading? Narratives of national origin lend the awesome weight of their authority to the philological readings that (in a neat quid pro quo) contributed to the construction of those narratives, those nations, and those origins. Thus the reading of the Chanson de Roland as the origin of...

  9. Chapter 7 Scheherazade at Home (Baghdad, a.d. 803; London and Hollywood, 1939)
    (pp. 198-234)

    It may seem churlish to trim the accretions which the Thousand and One Nights has acquired through its global meanderings over the last millennium, to refuse all that the Nights has become—the exemplary work of world literature, written in no one time or place but massaged in many—and restore to it its particularity as a work of medieval Arabic literature, particularly when what remains after the Western manipulations are trimmed away is so exiguous. The Nights had a dual existence, throughout its premodern history in its native, Arabic-language milieu, as light reading for educated men and fodder for...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 235-280)
    (pp. 281-304)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 305-310)
    (pp. 311-312)