Reading Against the Grain of Orientalism: Bint al – Shᾱṭi’’s Revision of the Classical Arabic Literary Canon

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Boutheina Khaldi


The Arab cultural awakening (Nahḍah) saw a swathe of revisionary scholarship on literary history: Jurjῑ Zaydᾱn’s (d. 1914) Tārīkh Ᾱdāb al – Lughah al – Arabiyyah, Ṭᾱhᾱ Ḥusayn’s (d. 1973) Fῑ al – shiʾr al – Jāhilī (1926), and al – Khῡlῑ’s (d. 1966) Fann al – Qawl (1947). These works represent a variety of perspectives reflecting changes in the understanding of Arabic literary heritage. While Zaydᾱn and Ḥusayn’s works were informed by orientalists, al – Khῡlῑ’ and his students – who were also Ḥusayn’s students: Bint al – Shᾱṭi’ (d. 1998), Shawqῑ Ḍayf (d. 2005), Muḥammad Mandῡr (d. 1965) and Maḥmῡd Shᾱkir (d. 1997) chafed against oriental scholarship. They proposed instead a thorough revision of traditional paradigms based on a thorough study of heritage (Awwal al – tajdῑd qatl al – qadῑm fahman). 

My paper sets out to examine Bint al – Shᾱṭi’s revisionary reading of the Arabic literary canon (selection criteria, selection process, and classification) in her Qiyam Jadῑdah lil – Adab al – Arabῑ al – Qadῑm and her leading role in the recovery of neglected women such as Umm al – Rasῡl, Nisᾱ al – Nabiyy, Banᾱt al – Nabiyy, Sukaynah Bint al – Ḥusayn, al – Sayyidah Zaynab, and al – Khansᾱ al – Shᾱirah al – Ulᾱ, and their inclusion in university curriculum. 

Published: Nov 14, 2022

Article Details

Texts and Visions Across Genres and Media: Re – thinking Arab Cultural History