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Title: Reading between the lines : Arabic fiction in Israel after 1967
Author: Williams, Simon J.
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2014
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Arabic literature in Israel has evaded critical attention, or has been treated as an uncomplicated part of Palestinian national culture, on a quest for unification and an identity that was devastated in 1948. This dissertation complicates that narrative through close readings of short stories by five Arab citizens of Israel—Imil Habibi, Muhammad ‘Ali Taha, Muhammad Naffa‘, Hanna Ibrahim, and Zaki Darwish—between 1967 and 1983. Focusing on the relationship between geography and fiction, I suggest that literary constructions of “place” and “space” by these authors reveal a range of cultural negotiations that break down entrenched dyads: Palestinian yet Israeli; Palestinian on the one hand, Israeli on the other; spared exile, but suffering occupation. Instead, these writers evoke the hybrid and ambivalent experiences produced in the paradoxical spaces of Israeli-Palestinian life. I develop an analytical framework that incorporates geographic and literary theory. I use the work of humanists such as Gaston Bachelard, Yi-Fu Tuan, and Edward Casey to suggest that literature mediates geography in a way that communicates belonging, alienation, or personal and collective meaning. The framework is bolstered with the work of postcolonial theorists such as Homi Bhabha, along with historical and political sources, to capture the contextual resonance of the texts. After laying out these theoretical guidelines, I offer a historical account of Arabic literature in Israel and embark on four analytical chapters. Chapter Two explores Imil Habibi’s portrayals of anxiety around post-1967 Palestinian reunions. Chapter Three focuses on the themes of Muhammad ‘Ali Taha’s Palestinian collective identity in Israel. Chapter Four takes up the theme of “the land” in the works of Muhammad Naffa‘ and Hanna Ibrahim, in the context of 1970s land expropriations. Chapter Five explores a long story by Zaki Darwish and its depiction of the body’s phenomenological relation to the homeland. Rather than portraying counter-narratives that suggest a binary of “Israeli” and “Palestinian” always at odds, these authors portray the spaces and characters in between. They disclose the anxieties of finding a sense of place in the context of a dispersed Palestinian nation, geopolitical uncertainty, social marginalization within the state, and the subtle geographies of a historic homeland that both is—and is not—one’s own.
Supervisor: Armbrust, Walter; Omri, Mohamed-Salah Sponsor: Rhodes Trust
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Middle East ; Arabic ; Palestinians ; Languages (Medieval and Modern) and non-English literature ; Literatures of other languages ; Arabic literature ; Palestinian citizens of Israel ; place and space ; Arabic literature - Palestine - history and criticism ; geographical perception in literature ; Imil Habibi ; Palestine - in literature