Translatability versus Localism: A Digital Humanities Approach
Presented in Middle Eastern Studies Association (MESA), October, 2020
Rather than contextualizing Palestinian literature against the backdrop of its many “host” cultures, this paper focuses on Palestinian literature as a unitary, independent – albeit international and multilingual – literary system, by digitally visualizing its production and reception on an interactive, searchable map. I juxtapose authors who traveled far versus those who stayed close to home - Ghassan Kanafani versus Samih al-Qasem. I show through several different crateria - number of editions, translations, academic research and inclusion in syllabi - how certain literary texts achieved reception across the Western and Arab worlds alongside writings that resist such global journeys. Reflecting on the advantages and limitations of textual translatability and authorial mobility, I tease out the various elements of literary capital in the case of these two celebrated authors.
Vanished: The Presence of Absent(ee)s in Palestinian Prose
Presented in American Comparative Literature Association (ACLA), Georgetown University, Washington DC, March 2019
What does it mean for a Palestinian to write an Israeli utopia? This paper reads Ibtisam Azem's Sifr al-īkhtifā' (The Book of Disappearance) as dystopian tale of cultural appropriation inasmuch as a rebelious reclaiming of the voice of the absentee, by paying attention to several linguistic and formalistic maneuvers that allow the voiceless - those who disappeared from the literary and historical narrative - to be heard.
Reconstituting the Self Through Love: The figure of Rita in the Poetry of Mahmoud Darwish
Presented in Interfaith Love: Love, Sex and Marriage in the Islamicate World Leiden University, June 2016
The voice of the lamenting lover is prevalent in the poetry of Mahmoud Darwish; whether toward an actual woman, a lost land, or a scattered nation, love is used to position the speaking self in comparison to the unattainable other. This paper focuses on the ways the discourse of love in Darwish’s poetry allows for reconstitution of the Palestinian self, specifically through the engagement with Rita, a Jewish-Israeli woman. By means of the particularly loving engagement with the other, the Darwishian speaker is able to revive and declare a lost self. My claim is that is it precisely the mixture within the figure of Rita – being the ultimate other, the oppressor and occupier alongside with being tenderly and passionately loved by the figure of the poet – that allows for a rise of a strong, confident self. Moreover, Darwish, as the ‘national poet’ of Palestine and who more than once commented on finding his lost motherland in language, finds his way to be involved in the national struggle of Palestine through the complex discourse of impossible love. Language becomes the site in which interfaith love becomes accessible, at the same time as it draws the borders of self-identity. By admitting the presence of the other within the self – in the form of love but also in the form of biblical allusions and linguistic choices –Darwish weaves together a new beloved land in which he is an equal and free citizen.
The death motif as an interpretive key to the Hoffmannian language in The Shunra and the Schmetterling
Presented in the National Association of Professors of Hebrew
Brown University, June 2016
Many of the words in the novel The Shunra and the Schmetterling do not relate to one another. In a text that often stalls immediate comprehension, the role of language shifts from a tool of communication to a net of references and games of words. How should we interpret a text that rejects unitary meaning? I claim this novel centers on the processes of tangling and revealing, constructing and deconstructing, disconnecting associations and connecting disparate worlds. In such a manner the novel opens up a way to address the question of death and resurrection that is the common thread amidst the incoherent fragments; the death of the narrator’s mother functions as the center of the labyrinth. The experience of loss is, furthermore, the very reason for the breakage in meaning but at the same time it what permits multi-layered and multi-dimensional perspective that brings forth the cultural and linguistic blend that is unique to Hoffmann. Parcing the novel to its elementary components – the references to the Hebrew Bible, the New Testament, Zen-Buddhist scriptures – this paper offers new ways to solve Hoffmann’s many riddles.