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Rewriting Literary History: The Case of the Arabic Novel

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This essay suggests the need to rethink the bases upon which histories of the development of modern Arabic fiction have been founded, as being part of an ongoing process of (re-)writing literary history. Two initial "parameters" are identified: firstly, the generalizing function of the term "Arabic," as opposed to other modes of subdivision, whether regional or generic; and secondly, the term "nahdah" and the continuing need to re-examine its premises and applications. The second part of the essay examines some of the implications of such a process of re-examination, as seen through the creative writings of a number of contemporary Arab authors, whose works invite varieties of analysis and interpretation (the uses of history, for example, the resort to pre-modern textual categories, and issues of readerships and reception).

Affiliations: 1: University of Pennsylvania


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