• Experimental Female Fictions; Or, The Brief Wondrous Life of theNahḍaSensation Story

    Ghenwa Hayek (see profile)
    Arabic literature, Literature, Modern, Middle East, Area studies, Fiction, Nineteenth century, Literature--Women authors
    Item Type:
    Modern Arabic literature, Middle Eastern studies, Literature and visual culture of the Middle East, Nineteenth-century fiction, Women’s literature
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    In this essay I argue that paying attention to the ephemeral genre of female sensation stories sheds insight on, and expands current understandings of, the many ways in which cultural production operated in the Arabic-speaking world during the nahḍa. Paying particular attention to two short stories in the genre, Adelaide Bustānī's ‘Henry wa Amelia’ (1870), and Labība Hāshim's ‘Ḥasanāt al-ḥubb’ (1899), I show how these texts produced and encoded a series of cultural values about male and female bodies, and how they participated in the ongoing cultural debates of that era. In particular, they seem to be preoccupied with two modern subject formations: the modern, middle-class female subject and the modern, middle-class reader. While the sensation genre is known for producing and reproducing textual and cultural anxieties before resolving them in a socially and culturally conservative manner, I argue that, despite their inherent conservativeness, these texts were nevertheless able to imagine flawed, yet strong, nuanced and complex female subjectivities. This aspect separates them from contemporaneous forms of textual production, such as prescriptive biographies written by women or the novellas written by men of the same era, and renders them valuable cultural artifacts, despite their ephemerality.
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    Journal article    
    Last Updated:
    6 years ago
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