SOAS Research Online

A Free Database of the Latest Research by SOAS Academics and PhD Students

[skip to content]

Al-Shamaa, Khaldoun (2007) Modernism and after: Modern Arabic literary theory from literary criticism to cultural critique. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

[img] PDF - Submitted Version
Download (14MB)


This thesis aims to provide the interested reader with a critical account of far-reaching changes in modem Arabic literary theory, approximately since the 1970s, in the light of an ascending paradigm in motion, and of the tendency by subsequent critics and commentators to view literary criticism in terms of a self-elaborating category morphing into cultural critique. The first part focuses on interdisciplinary problems confronting Arab critics in their attempt "to modernize but not to westernize", and also provides a comparative treatment of the terms, concepts and definitions used in the context of an ever-growing Arabic literary canon, along with consideration of how these relate to European modernist thought and of the controversies surrounding them among Arab critics. The second part explores some distinguishable morphological markers whose deployment involves a more or less radical distinction between, on the one hand, renovationist assumptions of cultural change as an uninterrupted process of historical continuity, and, on the other, innovationist assumptions based on discontinuity. The first of these modernizing models, involving revivalist ideas from the age of al-Nahdah, laid the foundation for a double dependency, on the past, serving to compensate, through remembering and reviving, for lack of creativity; and on the European-American West, serving to compensate, through intellectual and technical adaptation and borrowing, for the failure to invent and innovate. However, it is the second, counter-revivalist model that has assumed pride of place through the work of various poets, theorists and critics considered here. By the end of the eighties a self-generating, self-referential modernist theory had become the dominant critique. The third part proffers the case for a new paradigm. Drawing on the arguments and views of numerous scholars, the emphasis here is that "difference" establishes a distinctive mode of autonomy vis-a-vis Western Eurocentric theory.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:02

Altmetric Data


Download activity - last 12 monthsShow export options
Downloads since deposit
6 month trend
6 month trend
Accesses by country - last 12 monthsShow export options
Accesses by referrer - last 12 monthsShow export options

Repository staff only

Edit Item Edit Item