COMP 353
Writing the City: Beirut and Cairo in Contemporary Arabic Literature Spring 2010
Division I
Cross-listed ARAB 353 / COMP 353
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Class Details

The Lebanese novelist Elias Khoury has written that understanding contemporary Lebanese literature requires us to understand “how literature both creates myth and then seeks to destroy it.” This class will consider this statement in relation to the development of the Arabic novel emerging out of Beirut and Cairo in the latter part of the twentieth century. We will consider the ways in which Lebanese and Egyptian novelists use the motif of the city as a way to take up the prevailing social and political issues of the day. In so doing we will discuss how some works actively mythologize and celebrate the city as an extension of national identity, while others portray it as the root cause of the country’s social ills. We will also consider how the history of each of these cities was intertwined with the rise and fall of certain ideological movements in the Arab world whereby the novel, as a relatively new form in the region, served as an alternative medium for theorizing and considering the efficacy of such movements. In taking up these questions, we will discuss the extent to which the trajectory of the Arabic novel may be understood as a reflection of the changes affecting these urban milieus and reciprocally the way these two cities are, and continue to be, produced by these fictions. Throughout the semester we will read a range of works by Lebanese and Egyptian novelists as well as a selection of critical material that theorizes the city in relation to literature.
The Class: Format: lecture/discussion
Limit: 25
Expected: 15-20
Class#: 3314
Grading: yes pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: active participation, presentation, two short papers (5-6 pages), and one longer paper (8-10 pages)
Prerequisites: none
Enrollment Preferences: Comparative Literature majors and seniors
Distributions: Division I
Notes: This course is cross-listed and the prefixes carry the following divisional credit:
ARAB 353 Division I COMP 353 Division I
Attributes: INST Middle Eastern Studies Electives
INST - Urbanizing World Electives

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