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Durham University

School of Modern Languages & Cultures

Events in Modern Languages & Cultures

LESLIE BROOKS LECTURE: Professor Hoda Elsadda - Gender and Nation: New Directions in the Contemporary Novel in Egypt

6th May 2008, 17:30, ER141, Elvet Riverside I, Durham University
The Leslie Brooks Lecture for 2008, entitled 'Gender and Nation: New Directions in the Contemporary Novel in Egypt' is to be given by Professor Hoda Elsadda, Middle Eastern Studies, School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, University of Manchester [].

It is widely agreed that the rise and development of the modern Arabic novel ran parallel to and intersected with projects of nation-building in the modern period. The novel, as a “modern” genre became one of the main venues/instruments for shaping the contours of the national imaginary, hence a contested site for competing ideologies. In addition, literary historians have identified the “woman question”, or the role of women in the new nation, as one of the main themes that occupied modern Arab writers. Recent scholarship on Arab culture and history has engaged in a critique of the nationalist narrative in general, and of national discourses on gender in particular. This was informed by the surge in scholarship on gender and the nation, as researchers demonstrated that the nation is a gendered construct.

This talk examines the literary production of a new generation of writers who started publishing their work in the 1990s in Egypt. On the one hand, their work has been negatively judged for not being interested in al-qadaya al-kubra (the big issues), and for having relinquished the larger nationalist concerns that characterized the opus of previous generations of writers. On the other hand, they have been saluted for creating an artistic embodiment of the dismal reality of a defeated national project. I will argue that their work interrogates the gendered concept of the nation as it is employed by previous generations of writers. Their writings manifest an exploration and an embodiment of a consciousness that is not limited to fixed points, but inhabits the spaces in-between nations, cultures and identities.

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