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Katrien Vanpee

Abstract

This article examines the understudied political dynamics of the televised nabaṭī poetry competition Shāʿir al-Milyūn (“Million’s Poet”) to offer a new understanding of the program. Media coverage has focused on the participation of a single female participant, while scholars have assessed Shāʿir al-Milyūn as primarily an experiment in the wedding of local tradition to modern technology, overlooking the central and complex negotiations of ruler-ruled relationships taking place on the show’s stage. Shāʿir al-Milyūn’s political aspect becomes particularly apparent in the regular performances of waṭaniyyah verse, i.e. poetry for the waṭan or homeland. Reading a waṭaniyyah poem performed during the fifth season of Shāʿir al-Milyūn by Emirati poet Aḥmad bin Hayyāy al-Manṣūrī, I argue that Shāʿir al-Milyūn, rather than merely celebrating local poetic tradition, operates as a political technology that provides both poetry contestants and the show’s princely patron with opportunities to articulate and enact expectations of proper citizenship.

Hassanaly Ladha

Abstract

This study examines the architectural lexicon (ṭalal, dār, rasm, bayt) of early Arabic poetry, interrogating the relation between built and linguistic form in the nasīb. I argue that the interpenetration of the aṭlāl and khayāl motifs and of other structural elements of the qaṣīdah allegorizes the fleeting and phantasmatic nature of all linguistic and material structures. In the early Arabic episteme, poetic forms materialize history, delineating realities even as they fall endlessly into ruin. The implied theories of language and knowledge may inflect our understanding of the entire tradition of Arabo-Islamic expression emerging from this literary milieu.

Samuel England

Abstract

This article moves the poetic ijāzah from the periphery, where modern scholars have generally placed it, to a central position in Arabic poetry and mass media. The ijāzah was well developed before its adoption in the western Mediterranean, but Cordoban, Sevillian, and expatriate Sicilian poets distinguished the competitive improvised poem from corollary works in the Middle East, where it had first been invented. I argue that it is precisely the Andalusi innovations to the ijāzah’s formal development that have allowed traditional criticism to minimize its importance, against a larger trend of popular audiences appreciating performed ijāzahs, on stage and in mass media. Modern Arabic theatre and television have found enthusiastic audiences for the Andalusi poetic dialogue, a phenomenon that frames my Classical research. Media outlets, including those working closely with government officials, stage the ijāzah in ways that maximize its ideological value. As they use it to promote secularism and putatively benevolent dictatorship, propelling Andalusi literature into current Middle Eastern politics, we critics should seek to understand the dialogic form in its contemporary, insistently political phase of development.

Hanan Hammad

Abstract

This article employs the fictional writings of the Egyptian author Iḥsān ‘Abd al-Quddūs (1919–1990) to analyze the textually tangled anxiety over women’s sexuality and rapid political and socioeconomic changes in postcolonial Egypt and the Arab-East. Arguably one of the most prolific writers in Arabic in the twentieth century, ‘Abd al-Quddūs has achieved wide readership, and producers have adapted his books to popular commercial films and TV shows. Breaking taboos on women’s sexual desires, ‘Abd al-Quddūs’s work has been influential in shaping the popular notion about lesbian love wherein frustration with the postcolonial realities—inscribed by the Arab-Israeli conflict, Oil Boom, and globalization—have become entangled with the fear of women’s mobility and liberation.

Appendix

Translation of ‘Characterisation of Belinsky (Information and illumination)’ by M.P. Pogodin

David Foreman and Irene Zohrab

Irene Zohrab

M.P. Pogodin’s essay on ‘Characterisation of Belinsky’ was published in The Citizen (Grazhdanin) under F.M. Dostoevsky’s editorship in response to his first issue of A Writer’s Diary (Dnevnik pisatelia) launched on January 1, 1873. Dostoevsky represents Belinsky, his former mentor, as an impassioned atheist and socialist, who tried to convert him to his materialist belief. By implication Belinsky becomes the scapegoat for Dostoevsky’s earlier involvement with the socialist-orientated Petrashevsky Circle that resulted in his arrest and sentence for reading Belinsky’s banned letter to Gogol. Pogodin disputes Dostoevsky’s representation of Belinsky by demonstrating the critic’s commitment to Christian faith, whose ‘live’ voice affected his audience due to ‘particular circumstances’ (censorship) and whose changeability was natural. Dostoevsky’s partisan allusions to Belinsky (including verbal to Vs. Solov’ev), while not providing any context to Belinsky’s pronouncements, nor engagement with socio-philosophical ideas, such as individual anarchism (Max Stirner), undermine not only Belinsky, but subvert a wide range of Western philosophical humanist principles espoused at various times by him, from ‘love of humanity’ and ‘personal freedom’, to individualism.