Realism in Arnold Bennett and Najīb Maḥfūẓ : a comparative study in the Arabic and the English novel
Although the field of Comparative Literature has received much attention in Western countries since the time early in the nineteenth century when it was first recognised and organised as an independent discipline, it is only recently that this field of study has become widespread in the Arab world. As a result, although some general works have been written on the subject, a great deal of work remains to be done at the level of individual studies of particular authors or particular literary trends. This thesis is an attempt to meet one need in this area, being a comparative study of the realistic techniques of Najib Mahfuz, one of the most outstanding Arab writers of the present century, and one of the most famous English realists, Arnold Bennett. The thesis consists of a foreword followed by five chapters. Chapter One serves as the main introduction to the thesis and consists of three sections: i. A survey of Comparative Literature which seeks to establish the subject-matter and aims of this discipline, and to explain its methodology and value. ii. A historical review of the English novel. iii. A historical review of the Arabic novel. The aim of these sections is not to provide new information but to provide a framework within which the parallel developments in the two literatures can be traced and correlated. This is one of the basic methods of comparative Literature. Chapter Two is divided into four sections: i. A description of the environment of the Five Towns necessary for the understanding of Bennett's Staffordshire novel. ii. A biography of Bennett. iii. A description of Old Cairo, the locale of Mahfuz's realistic novels. iv. A biography of Mahfuz. The aim of this chapter is to explain the background of each author in order to compare the effect of environment on their work and to account for similarities and differences in their work caused by this. Chapter Three is concerned with a general discussion of the school of Realism, with particular attention to the English and Arabic traditions. Chapter Four: Realism in Bennett and Mahfuz - a study of the literary trends discussed in Chapter Three as exemplified in the works of the two authors and as seen by critics. This chapter includes a discussion of Virginia Woolf's attack on Bennett's realism and of the Stream of Consciousness approach to novel-writing. Chapter Five is divided into two main sections with many subdivisions. The first section discusses elements in common in the two authors, and the second examines those aspects in which Bennett could be said to have influenced Mahfuz. The conclusion drawn is that in the majority of cases the similarities are so striking that they cannot be explained as coincidence or arising independently from similar circumstances and that an element of influence must be involved. The thesis is concluded by an appendixed questionnaire on a number of topics which was submitted to and completed by Mahfuz.