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Literature and Nation in the Middle East

Edited by Yasir Suleiman, Ibrahim Muhawi

Hardback (Printed to Order)

This compelling study presents an original look at how 'the nation' is represented in the literature of the Middle East. It includes chapters on Egypt, Sudan, Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine and Israel, drawing on the expertise of literary scholars, historians, political scientists and cultural theorists.

The book offers a synthesising contribution to knowledge, placing Arab literature within the context of emergent or conflicting nationalist projects in the area.

Topics addressed include:

  • the roles of literature and interpretation in defining national identity
  • exile
  • conflicting nationalisms
  • conflict resolution

The approaches taken by the authors range from textual and rhetorical analysis to historical accounts of the role of literature in contributing to national identity, and political analysis of the use of literature as a tool in conflict resolution. Genres covered include fiction (the novel), poetry and verbal duelling.

This unique exploration of the subject of literature and the nation in the Arab world will be of interest to anyone studying Middle Eastern literature and nationalism, as well as historians and political scientists.

Key Features:

  • Includes chapters from a broad range of American, European and Middle Eastern contributors, providing a synthesising perspective on the Middle East
  • A unique exploration of the connection between literature and national identity in the Middle East, set against the background of conflict
  • Covers the subject of literature and nation in Egypt, Sudan, Iraq, Palestine and Israel


Introduction: Literature and Nation in the Middle East: An Overview, Yasir Suleiman
Chapter 1: The Production of Locality in the Oral Palestinian Poetry Duel, Nadia Yaqub
Chapter 2: Irony and the Poetics of Palestinian Exile, Ibrahim Muhawi
Chapter 3: Gender and the Palestinian Narrative of Return in Two Novels by Ghassan Kanafani, Amy Zalman
Chapter 4: Darwish's 'Indian Speech' as Dramatic Performance: Sacred Space and Transformation, J. Kirsten Urban
Chapter 5: Israeli Jewish nation building and Hebrew Translations of Arabic Literature, Hannah Amit-Kochavi
Chapter 6: Between Myth and Reality: in Israeli Jewish Nation Building, Shai Ginsburg
Chapter 7: Writing the Nation: The Emergence of Egypt in the Modern Arabic Novel, Jeff Shalan
Chapter 8: Arabic Poetry, Nationalism, and Social Change: Sudanese Colonial and Postcolonial Perspectives, Heather J. Sharkey
Chapter 9: Marginal Literature of the Middle East, Peter Clark
Chapter 10: The Predicament of In-Betweenness in the Contemporary Lebanese Exilic Novel in English, Syrine C. Hout
Chapter 11: The Nation Speaks: On the Poetics of Nationalist Literature, Yasir Suleiman

About the Author

Professor Yasir Suleiman is the first holder of His Majesty Sultan Qaboos Bin Sa'id Chair of Modern Arabic Studies and a Fellow of King's College, Cambridge. His many published works include A War of Words: Language and Conflict in the Middle East (2004), The Arabic Language and National Identity: A Study in Ideology (2003), The Arabic Grammatical Tradition: A Study in Tal'liil(1999), Literature and Nation in the Middle East (edited with Ibrahim Muhawi, 2006), Language and Society in the Middle East and North Africa (editor, 1999), Arabic Grammar and Linguistics (editor, 1998), Language and Identity in the Middle East and North Africa (editor, 1996) and Arabic Sociolinguistics: Issues and Perspectives (editor, 1994).

Ibrahim Muhawi is a Fellow of the Edinburgh Institute for the Advanced Study of the Arab World and Islam. His published work is interdisciplinary and ranges over the areas of Arabic literature, folklore, and translation. He is author of Speak, Bird, Speak Again: Palestinian Arab Folktales (1989). He has also translated and introduced Mahmoud Darwish’s Memory for Forgetfulness (1995).


'Literature and Nation in the Middle East brings out energetically and effectively some of the contours of the current Arab literature ... [and provides] insights into the engagement of the Arab men of letters with such diverse concepts and issues as nationalism, Palestinian exile, conflict resolution and social transformation.'
- Dr Manazir Ashan, Muslim World Book Review
An excellent addition to the field of Arabic literary studies, nationalism studies, and colonial/post-colonial studies. I strongly recommend it.
- Professor Joseph Massad, Columbia University
A study on the literary construction of the nation in the Middle East is most welcome today, particularly with its emphasis on Palestinian and Hebrew literature… This is an opportune moment to see how [Middle Eastern] writers perceive themselves and their identity.
- Dr P.C. Sadgrove, University of Manchester
This collection as a whole gains valuable essays individual essays and is a most useful addition to the study of nation and literature in the Arabic-speaking world.
- Roger Allen, University of Pennsylvania, British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies