A Poetics of Arabic Autobiography: Between Dissociation and Belonging, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A Poetics of Arabic Autobiography

Between Dissociation and Belonging, 1st Edition

By Ariel M. Sheetrit


198 pages

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pub: 2020-03-04
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This book examines the poetics of autobiographical masterpieces written in Arabic by Leila Abouzeid, Hanan al-Shaykh, Samuel Shimon, Abd al-Rahman Munif, Salim Barakat, Mohamed Choukri and Hanna Abu Hanna. These literary works articulate the life story of each author in ways that undermine the expectation that the "self"—the "auto" of autobiography—would be the dominant narrative focus. Although every autobiography naturally includes and relates to others to one degree or another, these autobiographies tend to foreground other characters, voices, places and texts to the extent that at times it appears as though the autobiographical subject has dropped out of sight, even to the point of raising the question: is this an autobiography? These are indeed autobiographies, Sheetrit argues, albeit articulating the story of the self in unconventional ways.

Sheetrit offers in-depth literary studies that expose each text’s distinct strategy for life narrative. Crucial to this book’s approach is the innovative theoretical foundation of relational autobiography that reveals the grounding of the self within the collective—not as symbolic of it. This framework exposes the intersection of the story of the autobiographical subject with the stories of others and the tensions between personal and communal discourse. Relational strategies for self-representation expose a movement between two seemingly opposing desires—the desire to separate and dissociate from others, and the desire to engage and integrate within a particular relationship, community, culture or milieu. This interplay between disentangling and conscious entangling constitutes the leitmotif that unites the studies in this book.

Table of Contents

Decentering the Self in Arabic Autobiography

Entwined Voices, Embedded Auto/Biography: Hanan al-Shaykh’s My Life is An Intricate Tale

Engagement and Separation in Leila Abouzeid’s Return to Childhood

Self in the City in Abd al-Rahman Munif’s Story of a City: A Childhood in Amman

Inscribing the Self in a Landscape of Rupture: Salim Barakat’s The Iron Grasshopper

Casting the Self through Outcasts: Mohamed Choukri’s Streetwise

Personal Myth and Self-Invention: Autobiographer as Ironic Hero in Samuel Shimon’s An Iraqi in Paris

Autobiographer as Auto-ethnographer: Hanna Abu Hanna’s The Cloud’s Shadow


About the Author

Ariel M. Sheetrit (PhD, Harvard, 2007) is a lecturer in modern Arabic literature and Arabic film at the Open University of Israel. She has published many scholarly articles on Arabic autobiography, fiction, women’s writing and on Arab film.

About the Series

Routledge Auto/Biography Studies

The Routledge Auto/Biography Studies book series publishes outstanding new work from preeminent scholars and emerging voices in autobiography, biography, life writing, life narrative, and identity studies. This series is an interdisciplinary project that maintains interest in all forms of auto/biographical narrative analysis related to understanding varied constructions of the self. While centered in literary studies and the larger field of the humanities, books in this series engage with scholars and theories from such disciplines as anthropology, biology, linguistics, pedagogy, psychology, and sociology, among others. The emphasis on exploring the innovative authors, genres, and methodologies of auto/biographical narratives appeals to scholars, students, and practitioners alike. Emerging from Routledge’s longstanding commitment to auto/biography studies, this series makes a substantial contribution to the burgeoning global study of lives and life stories. 

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