Multiple Encounters: Philology, Exile, and Hospitality, from Fāris al-Shidyāq to Auerbach and Edward Said

In: Philological Encounters
Sherif H. Ismail University of Pennsylvania

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From the second half of 1820s and for almost three decades, the Lebanese-born writer and linguist Fāris al-Shidyāq (1804-87) continued to work for Protestant missionary societies, mainly in Malta and in England. He collaborated with various scholars in compiling, translating and editing religious and educational publications, including a translation of the Bible into Arabic. Al-Shidyāq records segments of his encounters with European scholars and Orientalists in his travel account Kashf al-Mukhabbāʾ, and in his autobiographical narrative al-Sāq ʿalā al-Sāq, where he offers an early critique of Orientalist scholarship. Opposing the prevailingly Eurocentric discourse of the Arab nahḍa, as represented by his contemporary, the renowned Egyptian intellectual Rifāʿa al-Ṭahṭāwī (1801-73), al-Shidyāq insists on linguistic difference and cultural particularity, and, at the same time, he promotes hospitality across both cultures and religions. Al-Shidyāq’s minority background, nomadic life, and secular outlook link him with exilic philology in Erich Auerbach and Edward Said.

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