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The Idiot in Arabic Literature

  • Wen-chin Ouyang
Thursday 10 November 2016
LUCIS Fall Fellow Wen-chin Ouyang
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden
Lipsius 228

Reading Arabic Literature in a Global Context

The past quarter of a century has witnessed the re-emergence and further development of Goethe’s ideas of ‘world literature’, which have provided impetus for and contribution to the transformation of ‘comparative literature’ as well as literary studies and the attendant theory and critical thought. The problematically tangential role of Arabic literature, in fact, non-European literatures in general, in the current theoretical debates about literary studies within the framework of ‘comparative literature’ and ‘world literature’ has meant that ‘comparative literature’ and ‘world literature’, more often than not informed by translation and driven by translation studies, have remained Eurocentric, and that the study of Arabic literature continues to be grounded in the agenda and methodology of ‘area studies’.

Would it be possible to bring the theoretical rigour of ‘comparative literature’ and ‘world literature’ to bear on the study of Arabic literature without sacrificing the accuracy and depth of knowledge inherent in ‘area studies’? More important, how can the study of Arabic literature contribute to both literary studies and area studies, theoretically, methodologically, and interpretively, as it interrogates and engages with the priorities and methods of ‘area studies’, ‘comparative literature’ and ‘world literature’? This series of five ‘lectures’ explores and intertwine these two possibilities by reading Arabic literature in a global context, situating it in moments and sites of cultural encounter (across time, e.g., between pasts and presents, and space, i.e., with other cultures and literatures).

The Idiot in Arabic Literature

In the second lecture Wen-chin Ouyang examines the ‘The Love Mad’ paradigm across a number of genres of writing in classical Arabic literature and contemplates the ways in which the two simultaneously contradictory and complementary epistemologies (reason and passion) underpin the moral universe inherent in Arabic storytelling and adab, and rethinks the boundaries set up by genres in the Arabic literary field.

About Wen-chin Ouyang

Wen-chin Ouyang was born in Taiwan and raised in Libya. She completed her BA in Arabic at Tripoli University and PhD Middle Eastern Studies at Columbia University in New York City. She taught Arabic language, literature and culture at Columbia University, University of Chicago and University of Virginia before she moved to London. She currently holds the position of professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at SOAS (University of London). She is interested in critical theory and thought as well as poetics and prosaics. She has written extensively on classical and modern Arabic narrative and literary criticism. She is the author of Literary Criticism in Medieval Arabic-Islamic Culture: The Making of a Tradition (1997), Poetics of Love in the Arabic Novel (2012) and Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel (2013).

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