• Literary Modernity between Arabic and Persian Prose: Jurji Zaydan's Riwayat in Persian Translation

    Kamran Rastegar (see profile)
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    Our understanding of nineteenth-century literary practice is often mediated by the national literature model of study that continues to govern discussions of modern literature. Put differently, contemporary evaluations of literary texts of the nineteenth century are often arrived at by using the national literature models that remain ascendant. This results in particular from the interplay of two concepts, 'nationalism' and 'novelism', and the role that these ideological agendas play in establishing the frameworks for literary study that predominate in today's academy. Novelism is defined by Clifford Siskin as 'the habitual subordination of writing to the novel' —it is the prevalent tendency to approach prose writing in general using a framework of value derived from criticism of the novel.1 Rather than evaluating texts of the period in question by using criteria that can be validly ascribed to the sites of their production, we often tend to employ instead criteria derived from the novel as a currently-ascendant form of writing. Together with the tendency to read literature as defined exclusively by the trajectories offered in national-literature frameworks, this dual agenda has come to represent the most widespread tendency in literary historical scholarship, that of the nationalist-novelist paradigm, which presumes national literatures to be its subject matter, and which evaluates (non-European) prose writing largely through the critical tools developed for assessing the European novel.
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