Anthologizing Arabic Literature

The Longman Anthology and the Problems of World Literature

in Journal of World Literature
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This paper examines the ways in which Arabic literature has been introduced into world literature anthologies. Taking The Longman Anthology of World Literature as a case study, the paper questions the politics of the inclusions and exclusions of Arabic literature in the anthology. Pertinent to the discussion is to ponder the nature of Arabic literature that “makes it” into the anthology. In addition, the paper will demonstrate how the anthology in fact obscures, rather than illuminates, major historical trajectories of Arabic literature. The complexity of Arabic literature, its highly self-reflexive texts, and its internal developments throughout history beg for a different approach that, I argue, this world literature anthology is lacking. Equally significant, The Longman recycles several common orientalist clichés about Arabic literature, the most important of which is that there is no Arabic literature worthy of inclusion in the three volumes of the anthology spanning the thirteenth-nineteenth centuries. As for the pieces that are included, the paper will reflect on the size and space they are offered, arguing that these are not arbitrary choices, but rather indicative of how a non-Western literary tradition is appropriated into a world literature anthology.

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