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“A Raging Sirocco”: Structures of Dysphoric Feeling in Midaq Alley

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This article explores the crisis initiated by colonial modernity in Naguib Mahfouz’s 1947 novel Midaq Alley. I begin by discussing the significance of anger within the narrative, arguing that this dominant structure of feeling could be read as a collective response to wider social and historical forces. In other words, rather than understanding emotion as the “subjective property” of the individual, I regard it here as a relational practice embedded within and determined by quite specific sociocultural circumstances. I then proceed to discuss the role of rumour in the novel and the significance of its pronounced melodramatic qualities. In the first case, I shall argue, the circulation of rumour provides a way of containing or quarantining the negative feelings produced by modernity, while also reinforcing the boundaries of a community facing the very real possibility of its own demise. In the second case, I would like to suggest that the narrative’s tendency to privilege the melodramatic mode creates a sense of social order and moral intelligibility by channelling these feelings into a stable and predictable generic structure. This latter project is ultimately frustrated, however, when the forces of evil emerge to destroy the novel’s principle representative of virtue.

Affiliations: 1: Nanyang Technological University Singapore


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