The Genesis of Arabic Narrative Discourse

The Genesis of Arabic Narrative Discourse

A Study in the Sociology of Modern Arabic Literature


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9780863561498 February 2001

About the Book

After formulating a theoretical foundation for the sociology of narrative genres based on the work of Bakhtin, Foucault, Goldmann, Jauss and Said, this work challenges the widely held assumption that Arabic culture stagnated before its contact with the West at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Hafez traces the revival to the mid-eighteenth century and follows its development throughout the Arab world, showing how the emergence of a new reading public with its distinct ‘world view’ induced the process of the transformation and genesis of a new literary discourse. This is followed by a study of the dynamics of this process and an outline of the various stages of the formation and transformation of the new narrative discourse until it culminates in the production of a sophisticated and mature narrative.

The Genesis of Arabic Narrative Discourse shifts the terms of the debate on the rise of narrative from formal analysis to an analysis of social formation, clarifying many of the issues which have long dogged critical discussion. It changes the nature of literary history by overlaying its dry chronology with the vivid socio-cultural dimension and by achieving a fine balance between the textual and contextual. It tests its major theoretical suppositions by tracing the historical development of narrative discourse, as well as through a detailed and sensitive analysis of a short story in a manner that changes the nature of Arabic literary criticism and puts it on an equal footing with modern critical discourse in Western culture.

About the Author

Sabry Hafez is Distinguished Professor of Comparative Literature at Qatar University. His publications include A Reader of Modern Arabic Short Stories, The Genesis of Arabic Discourse and The Quest for Identities (selected by Choice magazine as one of the outstanding academic titles of 2009), all by Saqi Books.


'Professor Hafez is a devoted and continuing student of the Arabic short story tradition...[his] bibliographical details and critical views have made valuable additions to our knowledge of the field.'
Roger Allen

'A highly competent survey of the Arabic short story from it's earliest steps until 1930.'
Times Literary Supplement

'This particularly valuable study ... makes a substantial contribution to our understanding of the development of fictional narrative in the Arab world.'
Digest of Middle East Studies

'A very pertinent and very complete analysis ... A model of intelligence and scholarship.'
Journal of Arabic Literature