Kategorie: The Literary 1980s in the Middle East and the Maghreb

This series emerges from the workshop “The Literary 1980s in the Middle East and the Maghreb: Towards a Transregional History of the Present” which was held at the Forum Transregionale Studien June 29-July 1, 2022, with financial support from the Fritz Thyssen Foundation and the Merian Centre for Advanced Study in the Maghreb (MECAM). The workshop brought together scholars of Arabic, Persian, Turkish and Amazigh literatures and historians of the Middle East and North Africa for a series of interdisciplinary conversations.

The 1980s were a uniquely transregional decade that marked the final stage of the Cold War, bookended most notably by the Iranian Revolution and Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (1979) and the First Gulf War (1991). This long decade witnessed dramatic social and political shifts whose effects reverberated around the world but were most acutely felt in the geographic space that extends from North Africa to South Asia. In ways that have yet to be acknowledged, literature – which plays the distinctive role of an archive for public history and memory in the greater Middle East – bore witness to these upheavals, their local and national impacts, and to connections of violence, solidarity, and memory that entangled regional societies and cultures in new ways.

Series editors are Anne Marie McManus (Forum Transregionale Studien) and Amir Moosavi (Rutgers University – Newark).

Silence and Radical Rethinking in Syrian Theatre of the Long 1980s

By Friederike Pannewick. This essay focuses on a Syrian author who spent most of the 1980s in self-imposed silence: the dramatist Saadallah Wannous (1941-1997). This internationally acclaimed author belonged to a generation of Arab intellectuals and artists whose artistic self-understanding was strongly molded by the Palestine conflict. Deeply concerned about the political consequences of the Israel-Egypt unilateral peace treaty on Palestinians, Wannous stopped writing literature for a whole decade after Egyptian president Sadat’s visit to Israel in fall 1977.

Memory and the Repressed: The Possibility of Therapeutic Histories of the 1980s

By Idriss Jebari. In their hearts, historians are first storytellers who seek to offer intelligible narratives of the past. Ever since Hayden White’s Metahistory, the border between history and literature has become less meaningful. Yet, valid questions remain: can a passage from a novel be used with the same factual authority as, say, a newspaper clipping, a police report, or a population register? What about a personal diary or a set of exchanged letters?

Against Remembering: The Fictional Truth of a Massacre

By Samad Alavi. Carolyn Forché’s Against Forgetting: Twentieth Century Poetry of Witness anthologizes poems that testify to some of the last century’s darkest political tragedies. In her introduction, Forché establishes her basic criteria for selection. First, she includes only poems, as she wishes to demonstrate that the old “arguments about poetry and politics ha[ve] been too narrowly defined” and that it is possible to understand poems as residing between the personal and the political.

Trauma and the 1980s in Arabic Literary Studies

What is a literary history of the present? There are many ways to imagine such a project and its debt to Foucauldian genealogy, from accounts of how literature writes history to how the notion of literature is a historical aspect of the present. This essay, part of the upcoming workshop, “The Literary 1980s in the MENA: Towards a History of the Present”, asks what trauma has come to name in Arabic literary studies since the 1980s.

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