Northwestern Events Calendar

May
7
2021

GLOBAL LUNCHBOX | Book Launch for Rebecca C. Johnson's Stranger Fictions: A History of the Novel in Arabic Translation

When: Friday, May 7, 2021
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM Central

Where: Online

Audience: Faculty/Staff - Student - Public - Post Docs/Docs - Graduate Students

Cost: Free

Contact: Cindy Pingry  

Group: WCCIAS

Co-Sponsor: Middle East and North African Studies

Category: Global & Civic Engagement, Academic, Lectures & Meetings

Description:

Registration is required for this event:
http://bit.ly/stranger-fictions

Please join the Weinberg College Center for International & Area Studies and the Middle East & North African Studies Program at Northwestern University for a special session of the Global Lunchbox series featuring a roundtable discussion of the new book Stranger Fictions: A History of the Novel in Arabic Translation (Cornell University Press, 2021) by Rebecca C. Johnson, Associate Professor of English and the Humanities and Director of the Middle East and North African Studies Program at Northwestern.

There will be three discussants commenting on the book:

Tarek El-Ariss, Professor & Chair of Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College

Harris Feinsod, Associate Professor of English & Comparative Literature at Northwestern University

Margaret Litvin, Associate Professor of Arabic & Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of World Languages & Literatures at Boston University

About the book

Zaynab, first published in 1913, is widely cited as the first Arabic novel, yet the previous eight decades saw hundreds of novels translated into Arabic from English and French. This vast literary corpus influenced generations of Arab writers but has, until now, been considered a curious footnote in the genre's history. Incorporating these works into the history of the Arabic novel, Stranger Fictions offers a transformative new account of modern Arabic literature, world literature, and the novel.

Rebecca C. Johnson rewrites the history of the global circulation of the novel by moving Arabic literature from the margins of comparative literature to its center. Considering the wide range of 19th- and early 20th-century translation practices—including "bad" translation, mistranslation, and pseudotranslation—Johnson argues that Arabic translators did far more than copy European works; they authored new versions of them, producing sophisticated theorizations of the genre. These translations and the reading practices they precipitated form the conceptual and practical foundations of Arab literary modernity, necessitating an overhaul of our notions of translation, cultural exchange, and the global.

Examining nearly a century of translations published in Beirut, Cairo, Malta, Paris, London, and New York, from Qiat Rūbinun Kurūzī (The story of Robinson Crusoe) in 1835 to pastiched crime stories in early 20th-century Egyptian magazines, Johnson shows how translators theorized the Arab world not as Europe's periphery but as an alternative center in a globalized network. Stranger Fictions affirms the central place of (mis)translation in both the history of the novel in Arabic and the novel as a transnational form itself.

About the speakers

Rebecca C. Johnson (she/her/hers) is Director of the Middle East and North African Studies Program and Associate Professor of English at Northwestern. She is co-appointed in the Department of English and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities, and is a core faculty member of the Comparative Literary Studies Program. She serves as Associate Editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature.

Professor Johnson is now at work on "Visionary Politics: Revolutionary Transnationalism and the Aesthetics of the Arab Avant-Garde," which looks to the history of contemporary Arab literary styles since the 1960s. Similarly based on cross-linguistic exchanges, this book investigates experimental Arabic literature and art and their revolutionary attempts to envision alternative political futures throughout the decades-long transition from decolonization to globalization. Like Stranger Fictions, it focuses on transnational exchanges of ideas and aesthetic forms, showing the way that authors and artists conceptualized political futures and revolutionary visions across causes and conflicts that can otherwise appear distinct.

Professor Johnson has been a fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, the Council for Library and Information Resources, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Alice Kaplan Institute for the Humanities. She has also published translations of Arabic literature; her translation with the author of Sinan Antoon's I'jaam: An Iraqi Rhapsody is available from City Lights Books. Professor Johnson was awarded the Weinberg College Distinguished Teaching Award in 2015 and the Weinberg College Distinguished Advising Award in 2013.

Tarek El-Ariss is Professor and Chair of Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth College. His research interests include Arabic and comparative literature, and visual and digital culture. He is the author of Trials of Arab Modernity: Literary Affects and the New Political (2013) and Leaks, Hacks, and Scandals: Arab Culture in the Digital Age (2019), and editor of The Arab Renaissance: A Bilingual Anthology of the Nahda (2018). He is a 2021-22 Guggenheim Fellow.

Harris Feinsod, Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Northwestern, teaches 20th and 21st century US and Latin American literature and culture. He is the author of The Poetry of the Americas: From Good Neighbors to Countercultures (2019), a literary history of the relations between poets in the U.S. and Latin America in an era of cultural diplomacy, from the intensification of the Good Neighbor Policy at the onset of World War II through the cultural dimensions of the Cold War in the 1960s. Feinsod is also at work on a second book provisionally entitled "Into Steam: Maritime Modernism's Global Imaginary.”

Margaret Litvin, Associate Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature and Chair of the Department of World Languages & Literatures at Boston University. She is a historian of modern Arabic literature and theatre. Her first book, Hamlet’s Arab Journey: Shakespeare’s Prince and Nasser’s Ghost (2011), has been taught in university courses ranging from “Theatre History” to “The New Comparative Literature” to “Anthropology of the Middle East.” Her current research continues the effort to situate Arab cultural production in global context.

The discussion will be moderated by Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, Professor of Political Science, Crown Chair in Middle East Studies, and co-director of the Global Religion and Politics Research Group at Northwestern. Professor Hurd is the author of The Politics of Secularism in International Relations (2007) and Beyond Religious Freedom: The New Global Politics of Religion (2017). Her latest book, co-edited with Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, is At Home and Abroad: The Politics of American Religion (2021).

This event is part of the Global Lunchbox series, a weekly conversation convened by the Weinberg College Center for International and Area Studies at Northwestern that features current research and work-in-progress by scholars in the social sciences and humanities working on a range of global issues.

Registration is required for this event:

http://bit.ly/stranger-fictions

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