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Title: In the hall of mirrors : the Arab Nahda, nationalism, and the question of language
Author: Bou Ali, Nadia
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2012
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The dissertation examines the foundations of modern Arab national thought in nineteenth-century works of Buṭrus al Bustānī (1819-1883) and Aḥmad Fāris al Shidyāq (1804-1887) in which occurred an intersection of language-making practices and a national pedagogic project. It interrogates the centrality of language for Arab identity formation by deconstructing the metaphor "language is the mirror of the nation," an overarching slogan of the nineteenth century, as well as engaging with twentieth-century discussions of the Arab nation and its Nahḍa. The study seeks to challenge the conventional historiography of Arab thought by proposing a re-theorisation of the Arab Nahḍa as an Enlightenment-Modernity construct that constitutes the problematic of the Arab nation. The study investigates through literature and literary tropes the makings and interstices of the historical Arab Nation: the topography of its making. It covers a series of primary understudied sources: Bustānī's enunciative Nafīr Sūriyya pamphlets that he wrote in the wake of the 1860 civil wars of Mount Lebanon and Damascus: his translation of Robinson Crusoe, dictionary, and encyclopaedia. As well as Shidyāq's fictional autobiography, linguistic essays and treatise, and travel writings on Europe. The dissertation engages with these works to show how the 'Nahḍa' is a constituted by inherently contradictory and supplementary projects. It forms a moment of fracture in history and temporality – as does the Enlightenment in Europe – from which emerges a seemingly coherent national narrative.
Supervisor: Rogan, Eugene Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: History of Asia & Far East ; Intellectual History ; Arabic ; History of other areas ; Literatures of other languages ; language and nationalism ; critical theory ; Middle East studies ; liberalism ; sectarianism