Writing the Nation: The Emergence of Egypt in the Modern Arabic Novel

Jeff Shalan

in Literature and Nation in the Middle East

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2006 | ISBN: 9780748620739
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653102 | DOI:
Writing the Nation: The Emergence of Egypt in the Modern Arabic Novel

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This chapter focuses on the relationship between culture and nationalism, based on the argument that it is from the field of culture that proponents of nationalism posit an idea of the nation as an organic entity, one which pre-exists its geopolitical formation. It limits its analysis of the ways in which specific literary texts ‘announce’ their own modernness by encoding their narratives within an emergent nationalist discourse; or, in other words, how such texts, in effect, write the nation. The chapter focuses on the relatively neglected but arguably significant offshoot of the relationship between the nahda and the rise of Arab nationalism: the emergence of the modern Arabic novel. Particular emphasis is placed on two works: Muhammad Husayn Haykal's Zainab and Tawq al-Hakim's Īāwdat al-ruh (Return of the Spirit), which were chosen because of the specificity of 1920s Egypt. It was during this period of Egyptian history that a self-consciously modern and distinctly nationalist literature first emerged first in Egypt, and it was also at this time that an Egyptian brand of cultural and political nationalism emerged.

Keywords: culture and nationalism; nationalist discourse; nahda; Arab nationalism; modern Arabic novel; Zainab; Return of Spirit; Egypt

Chapter.  17968 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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