Apocalypticism in the Arabic Novel
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Tamplin, William C.
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CitationTamplin, William C. 2020. Apocalypticism in the Arabic Novel. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University, Graduate School of Arts & Sciences.
AbstractThis dissertation applies the autochthonous, popular analytic category of apocalypticism to the modern Arabic novel, a form of literature pioneered by secular, Western-educated Arabs. Apocalypticism refers to literature or art characterized by the worldview that the end of the world, time, or the current order is near (Collins 2014). I investigate to what extent and under what conditions apocalypticism obtains in the modern Arabic novel. Employing Frank Kermode’s study of apocalypticism in Western literature (1967), David Cook’s work on Islamic apocalyptic (2002), and parallel studies on the apocalyptic modern novel in Jewish, Latin American and US, African-American, and Russian literatures (Mintz 1984, Zamora 1989, Bethea 1989, Montgomery 1996), this dissertation analyzes the apocalyptic themes and intertexts of six Arabic novels: Cry in a Long Night (Surakh fi layl tawil, 1946) by the Palestinian Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (1919-1994); The Quails and the Autumn (al-Summan wa-l-kharif, 1962), Chatter Over the Nile (Thartharah fawq al-nil, 1966) and Miramar (1967) by the Egyptian Najib Mahfuz (Naguib Mahfouz; 1911-2006); The Earthquake (al-Zilzal, 1974) by the Algerian al-Tahir Wattar (Tahar Ouettar; 1936-2010); and Utopia (Yutubiya, 2008) by the Egyptian Ahmad Khalid Tawfiq (1962-2018). Jabra, Mahfuz, Wattar and Tawfiq all adapt masterpieces of Western literature in order to build their novels: T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land, Baudelaire’s Les fleurs du mal, Dante’s Inferno, Albert Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus, Molière’s The Miser, Jean-Paul Sartre’s Nausea, H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine, and Emile Zola’s Germinal. Moreover, ten shared themes recur in the novels: suicide, the crowd, revolution, messiah figures, the precolonial feudal elite, people hunting people, sterility, the city, savagery and sickness. These shared themes point to their authors’ internal critique of the postcolonial Arab world’s social inequality, massive urbanization, political instability and allegiance to tradition(s). These novels also imply solutions to the crises the authors narrate. While the Arabic novel is understood to have passed through three stages with respect to Western literature (translation, adaptation and maturity), my dissertation shows that, when writing crisis, Arab novelists never stopped adapting Western literature. For Arabic literature, as for world literature, maturity means continual adaptation.
Citable link to this pagehttps://nrs.harvard.edu/URN-3:HUL.INSTREPOS:37365976
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