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Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel

Nation-State, Modernity and Tradition

Wen-chin Ouyang

Hardback (Printed to Order)

Uncovers the politics of nostalgia and madness inherent in the Arabic novel

The Arabic novel has taken shape in the intercultural networks of exchange between East and West, past and present. Wen-chin Ouyang shows how this has created a politics of nostalgia which can be traced to discourses on aesthetics, ethics and politics relevant to cultural and literary transformations of the Arabic speaking world in the 19th and 20th centuries. She reveals nostalgia and madness as the tropes through which the Arabic novel writes its own story of grappling with and resisting the hegemony of both the state and cultural heritage.

  • Explores the work of novelists including Naguib Mahfouz, 'Abd al-Khaliq al-Rikabi, Jamal al-Ghitani, Ben Salem Himmich, Ali Mubarak, Adonis, Mahmoud Darwish and Nizar Qabbani
  • Shows madness to be an expression of the anxiety surrounding the Arabic novel's search for form, and Arab intellectuals' disappointment in the nation-state and modernisation

Shortlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award 2014


Part I: Nostlagia
1. The Invention of Tradition
2. The Mysterious (Dis)Appearance of Tradition
Part II: Madness: In the Ruins of Dream and Memory
3. Semiology of Madness
4. Semiotics of Tyranny
Part III: Narrating the Nation: Time, History, Story
5. History
6. Story

About the Author

Wen-chin Ouyang, FBA is Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS, University of London. Born in Taiwan and raised in Libya, she completed her BA in Arabic at Tripoli University and PhD in Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University in New York City. She is the author of Literary Criticism in Medieval Arabic-Islamic Culture: The Making of a Tradition (1997), Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel (2012) and Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel (2013). She has also published widely on The Thousand and One Nights, often in comparison with classical and modern Arabic narrative traditions, European and Hollywood cinema, magic realism, and Chinese storytelling. She founded and co-edits Edinburgh Studies in Classical Arabic Literature, and is also Editor-in-Chief of Middle Eastern Literatures. She was a member of the judging panel for Man Booker International Prize for Fiction 2013-15. A native speaker of Arabic and Chinese, she has been working towards Arabic-Chinese comparative literary and cultural studies, including Silk Road Studies.


'A valuable approach to the ongoing debate on intertexuality and modernity in Arabic literature.’

- Zeina G. Halabi, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Journal of Arabic Literature