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Nineteenth-Century U.S. Literature in Middle Eastern Languages

Jeffrey Einboden


A transnational study of the American Renaissance which explores the literary circulation of Middle Eastern translations of 19th-century U.S. literature

In a pioneering approach to classic U.S. Literature, Jeffrey Einboden traces the global afterlives of literary icons from Washington Irving to Walt Whitman and analyses 19th-century American authors as they now appear in Arabic, Hebrew and Persian translation. Crossing linguistic, cultural and national boundaries, Middle Eastern renditions of U.S. texts are interrogated as critical readings and illuminating revisions of their American sources. Why does Moby-Dick both invite and resist Arabic translation? What are the religious and aesthetic implications of re-writing Leaves of Grass in Hebrew? How does rendering The Scarlet Letter into Persian transform Hawthorne's infamous symbol? Uncovering the choices and changes made by prominent Middle Eastern translators, this study is the first to reveal the significance of 'orienting' American classics, demonstrating how such a process offers a valuable lens for reconsidering U.S. literary origins, accenting and amplifying facets of the American Renaissance customarily hidden.

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Part I: Scriptural Circulations
1. Judaic Maccabæus
Longfellow & Joseph Massel
2. Mahomet or Muḥammad?
Irving & ‘Alī Ḥusnī al-Kharbūtlī
Part II: Orienting the American Romance
3. Inscribing the Persian Letter, Hawthorne & Sīmīn Dāneshvar
4. Navigating the Arabic Whale
Melville & Iḥsān ‘Abbās
Part III: ‘I too am untranslatable’: Middle Eastern Leaves
5. The New Bible in Hebrew, Whitman & Simon Halkin
6. American ‘Song’ of Iraqi Exile, Whitman & Saadi Youssef

About the Author

Jeffrey Einboden (Ph.D, Cambridge) is Associate Professor of American Literature at Northern Illinois University. His research has appeared in Translation and Literature, Milton Quarterly, Middle Eastern Literatures, Journal of Qur’anic Studies, and the co-translated The Tangled Braid: Ninety-Nine Poems by Hafiz of Shiraz (Fons Vitae, 2009). Einboden’s ‘The Genesis of Weltliteratur’ (Literature and Theology, 2005) was named one of the 100 seminal articles published by Oxford University Press during the past century.


There is a global hermeneutic at work here, one that has so much more at play than what today goes by "globalisation".  Literature - its translation, its interpretation, its cultural appropriation – provokes a sometimes uneasy reciprocity of tradition, value, and truth that, under Einboden’s meticulous and lucid scholarship, ripens and enriches what we mean by a global text and reader.

- Dr Andrew W. Hass, School of Languages, Cultures and Religions, University of Stirling

This is an ingenious examination of the global circulations of American literature. Einboden’s erudite analysis of what happens when works by Longfellow, Irving, Hawthorne, Melville, and Whitman are translated into Hebrew, Arabic, and Persian moves transnational studies in dynamically expansive directions. His masterful exploration of the multiple dimensions of cross-cultural appropriation will attract admiration.

- Professor Timothy Marr, Department of American Studies, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

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