• From Gardens of Knowledge to Ezbekiyya after Midnight: The Novel and the Arabic Press from Beirut to Cairo, 1870-1892

    Elizabeth M. Holt (see profile)
    2019 MLA Convention
    Arabic literature, Gardens, History, Fiction, Mediterranean Region, Area studies
    Item Type:
    encyclopedias, Beirut, cairo, Eden, Nile, Garden history, History of the novel, Migration, Mediterranean studies
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    Late 19th-century Beirut and Cairo were capitals of Arabic literary production and press activity. A period, oft deemed a nahḍah, that witnessed the advent of the novel form or riwāyah in Arabic, this was also the moment of intensified French and British imperial involvement in the region, and the concomitant industrialization of Beirut’s silk and Egypt’s cotton markets. This article argues that, through the novels published in and promoted through the region’s burgeoning private journals and newspapers, editors and novelists revived the literary trope of the garden of knowledge as a spatial metaphor for the Arabic reading public. While the 1870s in Beirut began as a hopeful decade—the civil war of 1860 buried in the fortunes being made off Mt Lebanon’s mulberry orchards—by 1890s Cairo these Edenic hopes were replaced by a sense of melancholy in the face of rampant speculation, accumulating in the gardens of Ezbekiyya. Reading two novels, Salım̄ al-Bustānı’̄ s 1870 Al-Huyām fı-̄ jinān al-Shām and Jurjı̄ Zaydān’s 1892 Asır̄ al-mutamahdı,̄ against the literary and press activities of the Bustānı̄ family’s Al-Jinān, Zaydān’s Al-Hilāl, Khalıl̄ al-Khūrı’̄ s Hadıq̄ at al-Akhbār, Yūsuf al-Shalfūn’s Al-Zahrah, Muḥammad al-Muwayliḥı’̄ s Misḅ āḥ al-Sharq, and Fāris Nimr and Yaʿqūb Ṣarrūf’s Al-Muqtaṭaf, this article offers a literary history of speculation and capital for late 19th-century Arabic.
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    4 years ago
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