Middle Eastern Jews showed great interests in the Nahḍah (Arabic for Renaissance), a term signifying numerous intellectual movements, which championed Arabic literary and cultural renewal during the 19th century and the interwar period. Middle Eastern Jewish thought and literature thus responded to, and were shaped by, a context where ideas about the need to reform social and religious practices and laws, and discourses about Arab history and civilization, circulated widely in urban public spheres in the Arab World. Jewish thinkers and scholars were attentive to these discourses and they incorporated them into their conversations about the status of Jews as Arabic speakers, imperial and national citizens, and modern subjects. Middle Eastern Jewish writers were likewise keen to experiment in new genres that the Nahḍah’s Arab writers explored, such as the short story, the novella and the novel, the newspaper’s article and editorial, and the historical essay. Some Jews identified as Arab Jews, while others thought of themselves more as members of the national communities that emerged in the Middle East after World War I. The influence of Arab culture on Jews is apparent not only in their Arabic publications, but also in their writings in Judeo-Arabic and Hebrew. Jewish adaptions and perceptions of Arab culture, history, and language, moreover, generated different ideological commitments. Some Jews, who occasionally called themselves Arab Jews, felt that their adaption of Arab culture obliged them to support Arab nationalism and object to Zionism. Others, however, especially the Palestinian Sephardim, felt that they could combine between their Arab culture and Zionism to change Zionism from within, and underscored their indigenous identity as part of Zionist claims for Palestine.
Arab Jews: History, Memory, and Literary Identities in the Nahḍah
Orientalism in the Victorian Era
Orientalism in the Victorian era has origins in three aspects of 18th-century European and British culture: first, the fascination with The Arabian Nights (translated into French by Antoine Galland in 1704), which was one of the first works to have purveyed to Western Europe the image of the Orient as a place of wonders, wealth, mystery, intrigue, romance, and danger; second, the Romantic visions of the Orient as represented in the works of Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Gordon, Lord Byron, and other Romantics as well as in Thomas Moore’s Lalla Rookh; and third, the domestication of opium addiction in Thomas de Quincey’s Confessions of an English Opium Eater. Victorian Orientalism was all pervasive: it is prominent in fiction by William Thackeray, the Brontë sisters, Charles Dickens, Wilkie Collins, Joseph Conrad, and Rudyard Kipling, but is also to be found in works by Benjamin Disraeli, George Eliot, Oscar Wilde, and Robert Louis Stevenson, among others. In poetry Edward Fitzgerald’s Rubaiyat is a key text, but many works by Alfred Tennyson and Robert Browning also show the influence of Orientalist tropes and ideas. In theater it is one of the constant strands of much popular drama and other forms of popular entertainment like panoramas and pageants, while travel writing from Charles Kingsley to Richard Burton, James Anthony Froude, and Mary Kingsley shows a wide variety of types of Orientalist figures and concepts, as do many works of both popular and children’s literature. Underlying and uniting all these diverse manifestations of Victorian Orientalism is the imperialist philosophy articulated by writers as different as Thomas Carlyle, John Stuart Mill, and Karl Marx, supported by writings of anthropologists and race theorists such as James Cowles Pritchard and Robert Knox. Toward the end of the Victorian era, the image of the opium addict and the Chinese opium den in the East End of London or in the Orient itself becomes a prominent trope in fiction by Dickens, Wilde, and Kipling, and can be seen to lead to the proliferation of Oriental villains in popular fiction of the early 20th century by such writers as M. P. Shiel, Guy Boothby, and Sax Rohmer, whose Dr. Fu Manchu becomes the archetypal version of such figures.
Postcolonial Writing and the History of Revolution
Integral to the idea of revolution in postcolonial thought is a theory of the intellectual. The problem of the bourgeois elite—and, by extension, the bourgeois intellectual—is central to how postcolonial thought has understood the unfolding of bourgeois revolution in the colonial peripheries. This is why postcolonial thinkers such as Edward Said, Ranajit Guha, and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak have frequently turned to Karl Marx’s aphorism about the peasantry from The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, “They cannot represent themselves; they must be represented.” Far from originating in postcolonial theory, Marx’s claims about the peasantry have a prehistory in Pan-Africanism and anticolonial thought of the mid-century (Marcus Garvey, George Padmore, C. L. R. James, and Frantz Fanon). These encounters with the contradictions of bourgeois revolution in the colonies (Partha Chatterjee) are also a motif in postcolonial reflections on the failures of decolonization (V. S. Naipaul, Ayi Kwei Armah, and Ama Ata Aidoo).
Although Freud’s key claims regarding unconscious processes are pervasive in psychoanalytic theory, psychoanalysis is not a singular unified system. Early originating frameworks have evolved to adapt to changing clinical practices. In Britain, Freud’s work was complicated by the work of Klein, and later by the British Object Relations school, and still later by the inclusion of empirical research from John Bowlby’s attachment theory. In France and Latin America, Lacan gained dominance; in the United States, early work in “ego psychology” was supplemented by Kohutian “self-psychology” and later by “relational psychoanalysis.” In the academy, the work of Slavoj Zizek, synthesizing Lacanian and Marxist theory, has had wide influence. All these perspectives offer different accounts of the legacies of the past in their impact on unconscious expression. Early applications of psychoanalysis to literature were concerned with the origins of creativity and the neurotic conditions of literary characters or authors. Subsequent interests have focused on the nature of literary language and the dynamics of readerly engagements. In the early 21st century, use of psychoanalysis as an analytic tool follows the model of a conversation. The goal is not to apply a theory to a text to illustrate a psychoanalytic truth but to tease out the “unsaid” of a text or set of texts. Psychoanalysis in literary engagements, as in clinical engagements, is not about establishing a truth; instead it is used in “dialogue” with another discourse to discover implicit or unacknowledged dimensions of that articulation. The diversity of psychoanalytic schools and concepts allows scholars to give attention to wide-ranging interests: to the grip of ideology on subject, to the unconscious thematics of authors, to the symptomatic conditions of culture. Popular subjects for the psychoanalytic study of literature or film are psychic conflict, suffering, anxiety, enjoyment, the uncanny, and the repressed. Following World War II, the Frankfurt school synthesized Freud with Marxist thought, laying out enduring parameters for the psychoanalytic study of social processes. Adorno and Horkheimer sought to understand totalitarian character and mass culture and explored literature as a response to ideological enlistment. Recent work by “the Lacanian Left” in political theory explores libidinal and affective dimensions of discourse. “Psychosocial studies” scholars in Britain utilize psychoanalytic principles to gain more complex information from interviews and social research designs. Contemporary work in neuropsychoanalysis develops empirical evidence to document psychoanalytic processes in the organizational patterns of the brain, particularly in the dynamics of dreaming, memory, and nonconscious behavior. All these newly emerging engagements with psychoanalytic thought offer opportunities for contemporary research.
The Arabic Novel: New Roots, New Routes
In the mid-19th century, the Arabic novel emerged as a genre in Ottoman Syria and khedival Egypt. While this emergence has often been narrated as a story of the rise of nation-states and the diffusion of the European novel, the genre’s history and ongoing topography cannot be recovered without indexing the importance of Arabic storytelling and Islamic empire, ethics, and aesthetics to its roots. As the Arabic periodicals of Beirut and the Nile Valley, and soon Tunis and Baghdad, serialized and debated the rise of the novel form from the 19th century onward, historical, romantic, and translated novels found an avid readership throughout the Arab world and its diaspora. Metaphors of the garden confronted the maritime span of European empire in the 19th-century rise of the novel form in Arabic, and the novel’s path would continue to oscillate between the local and the global. British, French, Spanish, and Italian empire and direct colonial rule left a lasting imprint on the landscape of the region, and so too the investment of Cold War powers in its pipelines, oil wells, and cultural battlefields. Whether embracing socialist realism or avant-garde experimentation, the Arabic novel serves as an ongoing register of the stories that can be told in cities, villages, and nations throughout the region—from the committed novels interrogating the years of anticolonial national struggles and Arab nationalism in the 1950s and 1960s, through the ongoing history of war, surveillance, exile, occupation, and resource extraction that dictates the subsequent terrain of narration. The Arabic novel bears, too, an indelible mark left by translators of Arabic tales—from 1001 Nights to Girls of Riyadh—on the stories the region’s novelists tell.