ARAB 329
Against the Grain: The Counternarratives of Historical Fiction in the Arab World Fall 2019 (also offered Spring 2020)
Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
This is not the current course catalog

Class Details

In 2011, a few months after the large scale protests in Egypt that led to Mubarak’s forced abdication of power, a story circulated in social media that was then picked up by traditional media about the fabrication of a key image that goes back to the 1973 war. Every October on the annual anniversary of the war, pictures reappeared in the media, commemorating the event. A widespread one was one of Mubarak, then a major general in the army and commander of the air force, standing right next to al-Sadat looking lost in thought, while everyone else is focused on al-Sadat as he explains routes and war plans on the maps in front of them. The image had been photoshopped. Sa’d al-Shathl’ who was chief of staff during the 1973 war was “airbrushed out of history” to be replaced by Mubarak in the photo, allowing for an altered historical narrative about each man’s respective role and importance. Because of such incidents, the difficulty or impossibility of accessing “official” archives and the control of historical narratives by the state, historical fiction as a genre is of added significance in the Arab world. In this course, we will be examining eight works of Arabic historical fiction in translation, transregionally from the late nineteenth century to the present, with a focus more on the last few decades. Historical fiction will be examined both as epistêmê and as technê to explore its associated aesthetics and incorporation of different archives, documents and forms. We will be exploring the possibility of considering historical fiction as an alternative archive that opens up new definitions and forms of experiences, community and subjectivity instead of the traditional narrative of the nation-state. Alongside the novels that will vary from a whodunnit in contemporary Lebanon (The Mehlis Report by Rabee Jaber) to a work that is about the fall of Granada in 15th century Spain (Granada by Radwa Ashour),we will be reading theoretical texts alongside the novels.
The Class: Format: seminar
Limit: 19
Expected: 15
Class#: 1025
Grading: no pass/fail option, yes fifth course option
Requirements/Evaluation: participation and engagement with material in class: 30%; four 5 page papers: 20%; presentations/debates: 15%; midterm term project: 15%; end of term paper: 20%
Prerequisites: statement of interest
Enrollment Preferences: Arabic Studies majors and certificate students
Distributions: Division I Writing Skills Difference, Power, and Equity
WS Notes: Four 5-page papers long papers evenly spaced through the semester, a mid-term project and a research paper 10 pages long.
DPE Notes: The course aims to engage with how historical narratives have traditionally privileged those who have power, and thus see literary texts as an alternative archive that allows for counter narratives that show an array of experiences and redefinition of subjectivity and community outside of the traditional paradigm of the nation state and which allows the dismantling of the monolithic presentation of historical narratives in and of the Arab world.

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