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Title: The Middle Eastern novel in English : literary transnationalism after Orientalism
Author: Mattar, Karim
Awarding Body: University of Oxford
Current Institution: University of Oxford
Date of Award: 2013
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This thesis focuses on the production, circulation, and reception of contemporary Middle Eastern literatures in Britain and the United States. I'm particularly interested in the novel form, and in assessing how both translated Middle Eastern novels and anglophone novels by migrant writers engage with dominant Anglo-American discourses of politics, gender, and religion in the region. In negotiation with Edward Said's Orientalism, I develop a materialist postcolonial critical model to analyse how such discourses undergird publishing and marketing strategies towards novels by Ibrahim Nasrallah, Hisham Matar, Yasmin Crowther, Orhan Pamuk, and others. I argue that as Middle Eastern novels travel, whether via translation or authorial acts of migration, across cultures and languages, they are reshaped according to dominant audience expectations. But, I continue, they also retain traces of their source cultures which must be brought to the surface in critical readings. Drawing on the work of David Damrosch, Pascale Casanova, Franco Moretti, and Aamir Mufti, I thus develop a reading practice, what I call 'post-Orientalist comparatism', that allows me to read past the domesticating strategies framing these novels and to newly reveal their more local, thus potentially transgressive, takes on Middle Eastern socio-political issues. I cumulatively suggest that Middle Eastern novels in English formally embody a dialectic of 'East' and 'West', of the local and the global, thus have important implications for our understanding of the English and world novel traditions. I conceive of my thesis as a dual intervention into the fields of postcolonial studies and world literature. I am primarily concerned to reorient postcolonial theory around questions of Middle Eastern literary and cultural production, areas that have been traditionally neglected due to an entrenched, but unsustainable, anglophone bias. To do so, I turn to the work of Edward Said, and rethink the foundational problematic of Orientalism with an eye towards political, material, and cultural developments since 1978, the year in which Orientalism was first published, and towards the unique transnational positionality of the genre of the Middle Eastern novel in English. I also turn to theorists of world literature such as David Damrosch in order to develop a reading practice thoroughly attentive to issues of circulation, but, along the lines set out by Aamir Mufti, seek to interrogate their work for its occlusions of the impact of orientalist discourse in the historical development of the category of 'World Literature'. My thesis thus not only draws on postcolonial and world literary theory to analyse its object, the Middle Eastern novel in English, but also demonstrates how proper attention to this object necessitates a theoretical recalibration of these fields.
Supervisor: Boehmer, Elleke Sponsor: Arts and Humanities Research Council
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Language and Literature ; Literature (non-English) ; Literatures of other languages ; Middle Eastern Languages ; English Literature ; Postcolonial Studies ; World Literature ; Middle Eastern Literature