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Modern Arabic Literature and the Western Trends Essay

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Updated: Feb 8th, 2022

The advent of the modern Arabic literature forms has changed the landscape of Arabic literature, in general, allowing it to incorporate some of the Western ideas into its philosophy and, thus, representing a more diverse set of viewpoints in it. In retrospect, Arabic literature used to exist in a cultural bubble, where it was mostly supported by the ideas that originated from within the Arabic community, as Hassan explains (159). Although the described trend was important for the enhancement of local traditions and the flourishing of the Arabic culture, it suggested vast omissions in the range of opportunities for cross-cultural learning.

With the introduction of Western ideas into modern Arabic literature, its status of an unchangeable and unmalleable entity has been replaced with a different notion. Representing nowadays a much more flexible setting, modern Arabic literature tends to consider Western ideas (Rebeiz 684). While Arabic authors do not follow Western trends blindly, they do consider them as possible constituents of their philosophy and, at the very least, subject these ideas to thorough scrutiny in their works instead of ignoring them altogether.

In addition, modern Arabic literature has been shaped significantly by both external and internal forces. The connection between literature and politics, as well as literature and economy or any other aspect of people’s lives might seem barely visible, yet, upon deconstruction of narratives, one will realize that a combination of sociocultural, political, economic, technological, and other factors define the direction that an author takes with their book, as well as the message that they attempt at conveying (Allen 121). The described tendency has become particularly obvious when examining modern Arabic literature. Along with the openness to external influences and ideas, modern Arabic narratives contain a significant number of contemplations of and references to the recent changes to the current political, social, and economic landscape of Arabic states (Hassan 171). For example, the aforementioned increase in the influence of Western norms and ideas is often explored not as a thing in itself but as a trend occurring on the background of an increase in nationalism and the promotion of cultural integrity and unity within Arabic countries (Rebeiz 685). Therefore, the tendency to render complicated and often convoluted social conflicts in the Arabic environment while creating a unique storyline and introducing compelling characters is one of the key features of Modern Arabic literature.

The trend in question could e been as troubling by some due to the perceived threat of the erasure of Arabic culture. Although the concerns of the proponents of the specified standpoint are quite understandable and sympathetic, it is important to recognize the propensity to change in art and especially literature as one of its most fluctuating forms (Hassan 163). Therefore, experiencing the impact of other cultures is both inevitable and necessary since it defines the direction for the future development of the literary thought. By introducing sociocultural and sociopolitical contemplations into their narrative, Arabic authors manage to expand the argument beyond the time capsule of their era and consider the implications of the ongoing conflicts, specifically, the effects that these issues have on people’s relationships. As a result, modern Arabic literature becomes symbolic of the one might argue that the tendency to reflect sociocultural, socioeconomic, and sociopolitical trends through the relationships between the leading characters, or by creating a specific setting in which key events unfold is inherent to literature, in general. Indeed, creating a setting, even in the realm of a functional country in the sci-fi or fantasy genre, implies introducing the author’s perspective on the relationships within the said imaginary society. The position of the author is, in turn, inalienable from their personal idea of how society functions, which is, in turn, defined by the sociopolitical and sociocultural environment in which the author lives (Hassan 169). However, for modern Arabic literature, references to some of the most recent confrontations and controversies, as well as the effects that they have had on the relationships between Arabs and the representatives of other cultures, have become the leitmotif over the past several decades (Rebeiz 686). The observed tendency sets modern Arabic literature apart from the traditional Arabic narratives, which are typically thoroughly divorced from any sociopolitical or socioeconomic context.

Due to the increased exposure to the process of globalization, the modern Arabic literature can be characterized by the presence of multiple Western ideas and concepts, yet the specified change does not work to the detriment of the Arabic culture; quite the contrary, it enriches the Arabic literature, allowing it to evolve. Therefore, the process of change that modern Arabic literature and especially Arabic prose is undergoing can be seen as natural and quite beneficial for Arabic art. The inclusion of a new standpoint and philosophies helps to build awareness concerning cross-cultural communication in Arab people, thus making the task of cross-cultural communication much easier in the contemporary globalized environment. Thus, the present tendency of incorporating new cultural elements into modern Arabic literature seems to be an interesting aspect to study.

Works Cited

Allen, Roger. Studying Modern Arabic Literature. Edinburgh University Press, 2015.

Hassan, Waïl S. “Postcolonialism and Modern Arabic Literature: Twenty-First Century Horizons.” Interventions, vol. 20, no. 2, 2018, pp. 157-173.

Rebeiz, Mireille. “The Female Suffering Body: Illness and Disability in Modern Arabic Literature.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 43, no. 4, 2016, pp. 684-686.

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