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Reading Egypt after Edward Said: a study in the worldliness of secular criticism

Reading Egypt after Edward Said: a study in the worldliness of secular criticism
Reading Egypt after Edward Said: a study in the worldliness of secular criticism
This thesis aims to extend and mobilize Edward Said’s critical thought through a reading of three contemporary Egyptian novels: Bahaa Tahir’s Love in Exile (1995), Radwa Ashour’s Granada (1998), and Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love (1999). Whereas previous accounts of Said’s critical corpus have focused mainly on Said’s affiliation with Foucauldian theories of knowledge and power, this thesis considers how Said’s secular and humanist philology, his reflections on lost causes, contrapuntal reading, worldliness, and the public intellectual provide a more nuanced critical frame of reference through which varied modes of essentialism can be identified and challenged. More specifically, these readings trace how concepts such as human subjectivity, political agency, and cultural resistance are mediated in and through the narrative conventions and generic codes of these three Egyptian novels. By bringing these novels into conversation with Said’s critical thought, my readings seek to identify the limitations, as well as the strengths of Saidian reading, particularly (though not only) in respect of considerations of literary form.

The introductory chapter of this thesis presents an overview of the rationale behind rethinking Said’s Orientalist critique and the selection of the literary texts. Chapter Two considers how Radwa Ashour’s Granada registers the multiplicity of the secular traces of the Islamic past as it is refracted through multiple interpretations of cultural loss. Continuing my concerns with the importance of secular modes of tracing/reading the past contrapuntally with the present, chapter three considers how Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love stages an extended critical dialogue through the writing of an English woman (whose letters and notes disclose many features of colonial Egypt) met by the reading of an Egyptian woman after the passage of more than ninety years. Finally, chapter four considers how Bahaa Tahir’s Love in Exile uses the conventions of narrative fiction to represent the struggles of the Egyptian public intellectual to ‘speak truth to power’ in the codified language of print journalism. In the conclusion, I try to draw out the wider political implications of these Saidian readings of contemporary Egyptian fiction and suggest ways in which they might also allow us to better understand the challenges of imagining national solidarity and political agency in post-revolutionary Egypt.
University of Southampton
El-Naggar, Islam
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El-Naggar, Islam
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Morton, Stephen
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Primorac, Ranka
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El-Naggar, Islam (2019) Reading Egypt after Edward Said: a study in the worldliness of secular criticism. University of Southampton, Doctoral Thesis, 246pp.

Record type: Thesis (Doctoral)

Abstract

This thesis aims to extend and mobilize Edward Said’s critical thought through a reading of three contemporary Egyptian novels: Bahaa Tahir’s Love in Exile (1995), Radwa Ashour’s Granada (1998), and Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love (1999). Whereas previous accounts of Said’s critical corpus have focused mainly on Said’s affiliation with Foucauldian theories of knowledge and power, this thesis considers how Said’s secular and humanist philology, his reflections on lost causes, contrapuntal reading, worldliness, and the public intellectual provide a more nuanced critical frame of reference through which varied modes of essentialism can be identified and challenged. More specifically, these readings trace how concepts such as human subjectivity, political agency, and cultural resistance are mediated in and through the narrative conventions and generic codes of these three Egyptian novels. By bringing these novels into conversation with Said’s critical thought, my readings seek to identify the limitations, as well as the strengths of Saidian reading, particularly (though not only) in respect of considerations of literary form.

The introductory chapter of this thesis presents an overview of the rationale behind rethinking Said’s Orientalist critique and the selection of the literary texts. Chapter Two considers how Radwa Ashour’s Granada registers the multiplicity of the secular traces of the Islamic past as it is refracted through multiple interpretations of cultural loss. Continuing my concerns with the importance of secular modes of tracing/reading the past contrapuntally with the present, chapter three considers how Ahdaf Soueif’s The Map of Love stages an extended critical dialogue through the writing of an English woman (whose letters and notes disclose many features of colonial Egypt) met by the reading of an Egyptian woman after the passage of more than ninety years. Finally, chapter four considers how Bahaa Tahir’s Love in Exile uses the conventions of narrative fiction to represent the struggles of the Egyptian public intellectual to ‘speak truth to power’ in the codified language of print journalism. In the conclusion, I try to draw out the wider political implications of these Saidian readings of contemporary Egyptian fiction and suggest ways in which they might also allow us to better understand the challenges of imagining national solidarity and political agency in post-revolutionary Egypt.

Text
Islam El-Naggar Thesis & Award Submission - Version of Record
Restricted to Repository staff only until 31 December 2020.
Available under License University of Southampton Thesis Licence.

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Published date: March 2019

Identifiers

Local EPrints ID: 429027
URI: https://eprints.soton.ac.uk/id/eprint/429027
PURE UUID: 1176b03d-3b56-426e-a077-68875dec25c0

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Date deposited: 19 Mar 2019 17:30
Last modified: 19 Mar 2019 17:30

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