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Narratives of Selfhood:
A Study of the Arabic Biographical Novel, 1967-

ABDOU, SHAYMAA,HUSSEIN,SAMY,MOHA (2016) Narratives of Selfhood:
A Study of the Arabic Biographical Novel, 1967-
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



Scholarship on the Arabic novel often approaches it in light of questions of
national consciousness, identity formation and contact with the West. This
study relates the traditional fictional narrative of individual self-development
found in biographical subgenres of the novel such as the Bildungsroman,
autobiographical and confessional novels with these scholarly enterprises. It
explores how biographical forms, as found in the post-1967 Arabic novel, have
reflected an individualistic worldview that began as a reaction to certain
collectivist ideas inherited from a previous generations of writers and
intellectuals. The individualism of biographical forms is shown to be a reaction
to the literary conventions associated with the themes of national identity and
the Western encounter.
The New Sensibility movement that evolved during the period that the study
covers is analysed in relation to various Arabic texts from eight countries.
Theories of intertextuality provide the interpretive tools to discuss the links
between those novels and the changes in genres over time. Gérard Genette’s
concept of hypertextuality is one of such tools used to analyse the relationship
between the contemporary texts and their predecessors, and Bakhtin’s ideas
on utterances and speech genres allow me to interpret the implied writers’
views on the values associated with the literary convention in which they are
participating. I use three prototypical narratives to summarise the elements of
the established literary conventions and the presuppositions of the writers and
The study focuses on two recurrent themes in the contemporary biographical
novel; political activism and immigration. It shows how these two topics were
developed literary codes that contemporary writers gave new significations. In
prototypical narratives, they were literary vehicles for imagining a unified
community, and in the late twentieth century they transformed into narratives of
self-discovery and individualistic emphasis on uniqueness and agency. By
focusing on certain attributes of the biographical form, such as the spontaneous
desire of the individual and the persistent motif of the double, I show how this
particular subgenre of the novel was used to disturb the collectivist ideologies
and stable speech genres that had become prevalent by the latter half of the
twentieth century.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > Modern Languages and Cultures, School of
Thesis Date:2016
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:29 Feb 2016 11:32

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