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Contemporary Israeli Fiction  

Oded Nir

Central to the transformation of Israeli literature in the early 21st century is the emergence of new genres and forms of writing. In this essay, I try to relate these new literary developments to socio-econoic transformations.. I address the emergence of three genres: Israeli speculative fiction (in works by Ofir Touché-Gafla, Vered Tochterman, Gail Hareven, and others), detective fiction (in novels by Dror Mishani and Noa Yedlin), and diasporic novels—novels whose interpretive frame of reference tries to bypass the Zionist-Israeli world of meaning (in novels by Maya Arad and Ruby Namdar). I suggest that these genres emerge as a response to the crisis of older forms of literary representation, registered in Israeli postmodernism in the 1980s and 1990s. I argue that these older forms become unable to provide concrete figures for the social and a sense of historicity, the emerging genres begin fulfilling precisely these functions, taking the place of the older genres. In particular, I demonstrate how the three new genres unconsciously map the unevenly developed socioeconomic structure of Israel, developing spatial allegorical languages through which to consider the antagonism between older welfare-state social form and the newer neoliberal structures in Israel (contrasting both to utopian states of existence). I suggest that Israeli detective fiction is useful in capturing the commodification of older national political projects and the rise of new neoliberal social forms; that diasporic novels help develop new allegorical understanding of individual existence that bypass national allegories; and that Israeli SF both captures the antagonism between welfare state and neoliberalism, as well as unconsciously imagine non-capitalist futurity.

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Orientalism in the Victorian Era  

Valerie Kennedy

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.

Article

Pre-1952 Egyptian Drama, Popular Theater, and Cultures of Performance  

Raphael Cormack

There is a linear way to tell story of Egyptian performance history up to 1952: the country had not known theater in any serious way before the 1870s. As European culture entered Egypt, along with European power and capital, Egyptians created their own theatrical tradition based on the European. Translations were made of Shakespeare, Racine, and Corneille, which were produced by new theater troupes. At first, so this story goes, this was a slightly defective imitation of the European model. But, in the subsequent decades a theatrical tradition developed into a fully formed dramatic culture. By 1952, there were Egyptian playwrights and Egyptian actors, performing plays about uniquely Egyptian themes (even if the model of was essentially European). For much of the 20th century, this was a dominant narrative in both scholarly work on theater and on more public facing criticism. It was not always put so bluntly, but the basic model and its assumptions formed the analytical skeleton. After a while, this way of looking at the history of Egyptian performance began to face challenges. As well as being reductive and Eurocentric, it became clear that this approach excluded a vast range of performance traditions that have long thrived in Egypt. Studying Egyptian theater as merely a belated attempt to replicate a European style of theater left out a lot. No serious academic work could entirely ignore the long history of performance in Egypt which was not encompassed under the umbrella of “theater”—traveling farce performances, dances, shadow plays. But these were hard to fit into the dominant model of analysis so usually found themselves confined to carefully siloed introductory chapters. So a new way of telling the story emerged, which attempted to capture the complexity of late-19th- and early-20th-century theater. In this version, it would not be possible to create a cordon sanitaire around “proper” theater in this period and to study it in isolation. It was clear that theater practitioners took influences from a variety of places and performers themselves moved freely between nightclubs, cabarets, and theaters, challenging the rigid theoretical barriers erected between them. The influences of these earlier popular performance traditions could also start to be seen if the gaze was turned away from European theater. Likewise, the work of adapting European theater to Egypt was not one of simple imitation but was a creative process in itself. The history of Egyptian performance in the 19th and 20th centuries has always been a history of tension—between the “European” and the “local,” between the “high” and the “low.” Ought Egyptians seek to refine European—style theater that dealt with local concerns or use popular traditions that still had appeal to wide audiences? What, in reality, was the difference between a tragic actor and a nightclub singer? Should a barrier be erected between these two things or not? These tensions have never been resolved but continue to animate modern Egyptian performance and the academic study of its history.

Article

The Turkish Novel as Transnational  

Ayşe Özge Koçak Hemmat

The novel in the Turkish tradition has been a transnational genre, both in terms of its inception and production during the late Ottoman era, and by virtue of the novelists’ transnational experiences and the reflection of these experiences in their novels. Imperial transnationalism—intra- and inter-imperial exchanges and relations that predate the modern nation-state—is an essential lens through which to study the Ottoman novel, with its multiple sources and cross-cultural engagement and output that expand the scope of the “Ottoman novel” to the non-Turkish-speaking and non-Muslim subjects of the empire. Following the split of the former Ottoman territories into nation-states that began in the 19th century and culminated after World War I, the Republic of Turkey attempted to forge a unique Turkish identity, an effort that involved cultivating a national literary tradition distinct from that of its imperial predecessor. The Republican-era novelists nonetheless continued to reflect on their transnational and cross-cultural experiences in their work. Some of these authors wrote while residing abroad for reasons ranging from exile to diplomatic service, illustrating the complexities of the concept and the reality of nation, imagined or otherwise. As the form and the substance of the Turkish novel evolved and flourished, culminating in the awarding of the Nobel Prize in Literature to Orhan Pamuk in 2006, Turkish novelists enjoyed wider and more international audiences. Some recurrent themes in transnational Turkish novels are identity and language, belonging at home and abroad, and reconciling the past with the present. While Turkish novelists now enjoy increased mobility and the ability to reach an international audience, with more of their work being translated and published abroad, and read and studied across the globe, the scope of international scholarship on the Turkish novel is still confined to the work of a small group of authors. This highly selective reception not only limits the range of works to which international audiences are exposed, but also suppresses the genre’s entanglement in the Turkish literary tradition with the crossing of boundaries—temporal and traditional, as well as physical. A transnational approach to studying the Turkish novel thus provides insight into the genre’s origins, evolution, circulation, and reception, but it also highlights its transgressive nature in a wide network of world literary and social developments through its evolution via travel, translation, and adaptation in different regions, and its negotiations with other literary forms.