Epistolarity in a Nahdah Climate: The Role of Mayy Ziyādah's Letter Writing

in Journal of Arabic Literature
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Abstract

It is the purpose of this article to study Mayy Ziyādah's (d. 1941) epistolary art as an extension of her salon in the years of its formation, 1913-1936. While her salon gathered together the most distinguished Nahdah elite, her epistolary art consolidated an enormous network that included intellectuals from all over the Arab world, Europe, and North and South America. Her epistolary art made use of the eighteenth-century French salon model, but it also drew on a solid tradition of Arabic chancery art that reached its peak between the tenth and fifteenth centuries. Her letters as well as the letters addressed to her demonstrate how central her role and function as salonnière and littérateure were to the Nahdah climate of ideas. The article also provides a typological reading of this art, placing it in the context of French and Egyptian models.

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