Title

The Image of Arab Culture in World Literature in American Anthologies

Titles of the Individual Presentations in a Panel

The Image of Arab Culture in World Literature in American Anthologies Jonas Elbousty

Subject Area

Arabic and Islamic Studies

Abstract

In 1987 E.D. Hirsh published works on cultural literacy, developing a list that sums up knowledge that every American needs to know. At the time of its publication, his work encountered both applause and criticism. Yet, the only common ground that both groups could agree upon was domination of literary cannon by white dead men. Now, in our 21st century American society, we are once again faced with a divided society where conservatives and liberals seem to find no common ground. Hirsch argued that an understanding of cultural literacy could be a source of commonality among all Americans, but as we look toward an American society that is no longer dominated by a white majority, we are faced with a new question, as the demographics of the American people are rapidly shifting in a way where the minorities outgrow the while population.

It is imperative that we, through the teaching and learning of literature, build a bridge that fosters cross cultural understanding among these seemingly disparate groups that make up American society. So how do we do this? In part it will require a rethinking of how we select texts and which texts are added to the traditional high school and college canon. The key factor in text selection is the necessity to discontinue ideologies that maintain white supremacy, and represent the diverse wealth of perspectives present in American society.

For this project, I examine the image of Arab culture in narratives that inhabit our curricula through a close reading of existing texts that perpetuate the orientalist project and, thereby, offer stories that oppose and challenge these narratives.

Brief Bio Note

Jonas M. Elbousty has taught at Al Akhawyeen University, Daniel Webster College, Georgia Institute of Technology, and Emory University. He currently teaches at the department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at Yale University. He has taught widely in the areas of North African affairs, Middle Eastern and North African History and literature.

His research and teaching interests are comparative and Arabic literature; North African literature; Diaspora in Cinema, Postcolonial literature; Intersection between literary and political theory in literature. His research interests have focused on a number of issues within the broader field of Arabic literature, specifically the intricate relationship between literature and politics and the argument that literature can alter the political sphere. He is also conducting research in Medieval Islamic West History, and his research is concerned with the social and political tensions that arise from the study of religious minorities under the majority rule in the Medieval Islamic West. He is currently working on a project studying minorities in their sociopolitical and religious context under the governance of Almohads.

He directed diverse programs in the MENA region. He works as a consultant and external examiner to numerous academic institutions, offering consultations to language development, running workshops for language faculty. He also consults for NGOs, offering advice that pertains to North African and Middle Eastern Affairs. He is contracted as a language expert to provide final stage review and evaluation of test passages (written and auditory) and their associated test items (questions) for the Defense Language Institute’s Language Proficiency Test. He also serves as member on many advisory boards, including American Councils for International Education. He is also on many governmental and non-governmental boards and his advice is often sought by numerous agencies.

Keywords

World Literature, Orientalism, Arab Culture, Narratives, Cultural Literacy

Location

Room 212

Presentation Year

2018

Start Date

4-5-2018 4:25 PM

Embargo

12-11-2017

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Apr 5th, 4:25 PM

The Image of Arab Culture in World Literature in American Anthologies

Room 212

In 1987 E.D. Hirsh published works on cultural literacy, developing a list that sums up knowledge that every American needs to know. At the time of its publication, his work encountered both applause and criticism. Yet, the only common ground that both groups could agree upon was domination of literary cannon by white dead men. Now, in our 21st century American society, we are once again faced with a divided society where conservatives and liberals seem to find no common ground. Hirsch argued that an understanding of cultural literacy could be a source of commonality among all Americans, but as we look toward an American society that is no longer dominated by a white majority, we are faced with a new question, as the demographics of the American people are rapidly shifting in a way where the minorities outgrow the while population.

It is imperative that we, through the teaching and learning of literature, build a bridge that fosters cross cultural understanding among these seemingly disparate groups that make up American society. So how do we do this? In part it will require a rethinking of how we select texts and which texts are added to the traditional high school and college canon. The key factor in text selection is the necessity to discontinue ideologies that maintain white supremacy, and represent the diverse wealth of perspectives present in American society.

For this project, I examine the image of Arab culture in narratives that inhabit our curricula through a close reading of existing texts that perpetuate the orientalist project and, thereby, offer stories that oppose and challenge these narratives.