"A timely and important recasting of the Nahda and of what literature meant and ‘did’ during the period . . . one of the manuscript’s great strengths is its sustained engagement with Arab scholars writing in Arabic and with theory produced in Arabic."—Ilham Khuri-Makdisi, Northeastern University
"One of the most insightful, creative, and groundbreaking books I have read in years. The stakes of its inquiry extend well beyond the domain of Arabic literature and model methods of investigation relevant to any scholar of literature, language, and the arts. This book is as brilliant and insightful as it is inspiring."—Michael Allan, author of In the Shadow of World Literature: Sites of Reading in Colonial Egypt
"Fluid prose and luminous readings leave us with a clear view of both the Nahda and the political potential of rethinking science and literary imagination: the recreation of history was and remains at stake."—Alexander Key, author of Language Between God and the Poets
In Literary Optics, Maha AbdelMegeed offers a compelling and far-reaching alternative to the traditional mode of analyzing Arabic literature through an encounter between Arabic narrative forms and European ones. Drawing upon close engagements with the works of canonical authors from the period, including Hassan Husni al-Tuwayrani, Muhammad al-Muwaylihi, Ali Mubarak, Francis Marrash, and ‘Abdallah al-Nadim, AbdelMegeed addresses not where these works emanate from but rather how and why they were drawn together to form a canon. In doing so, she rejects the expectation that these texts, through the trope of encounter, hold the explanatory key to modern Arabic literature.
In this reformulation of Arabic literary history, AbdelMegeed argues that the canon is forged through an urgency to define a new form of political sovereignty and to make history visible. In doing so, she explores three pivotal concepts: the spectral (khayal), the trace (athar) and the collective (alnās). By examining the texts through these concepts, Literary Optics provides a remarkable intellectual history that delves into the aesthetic, philosophical, and political stakes of nineteenth-century Arabic literature.
Maha AbdelMegeed is assistant professor of modern Arabic literature at the American University of Beirut.
6 x 9, 0 pages