Orientalism and World Literature: A Re-reading of Cosmopolitanism in Ṭāhā Ḥusayn’s Literary World

In: Journal of Arabic Literature
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  • 1 SOAS University of London
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Pierre Cachia’s masterful literary biography of Ṭāhā Ḥusayn (1956) identified cultural exchange and particularly translation as the catalyst for the Egyptian cultural and literary renaissance epitomized in the person of Ṭāhā Ḥusayn (1889-1973). This paper takes Cachia as a point of departure and pursues an understanding of Ṭāhā Ḥusayn within the framework of world literature and locates his vision of Egyptian modernity and national identity in the circulation of ideas, concepts, bodies of knowledge and worldviews in the Mediterranean world. It focuses on the role of Orientalism and European Classicism in the cosmopolitanism underpinning his program of cultural and educational reform, and interrogates the conceptual category of “nation,” narratives of Nahḍah, and theories of world literature.

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