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Modern Arabic literary biography : a study of character portrayal in the works of Egyptian biographers of the first half of the twentieth century, with special reference to literary biography

By Waheed Mohamed Awad Mowafy


In Chapter one, I presented a comparative definition of the meaning of Sirah (PI.Siyar), Tarjamah (Pl. Tarajim), Manaqib, Tabaqat and Maghazi as they were understood in antiquity. I also showed how the meaning of Sirah in modern times has only narrowly developed. Although the method of biographical writing continuously developed in Europe, it hardly progressed in Modem Arabic Literature. The only exception was seen in the writings by the pioneers of enlightenment in Egypt at the beginning of the twentieth century. This change of direction relied on borrowing European methodology in biographical writing.\ud \ud In chapter two, I reviewed the early attempts at writing biographies in the nineteenth century by Abd al Rahman al- Jabarti and Ali Mubarak. Although both were the first\ud pioneers in this respect, yet they followed the footpath of classical approach above all that of al-Maqarizi from whom -Ali Mubarak derived inspiration in his book Al-Khitat al-Tawfiqiyyah.\ud \ud In chapter three, I studied the twentieth century, starting with traditional biography writers who could not employ European methodologies and whose writings oscillated between biographical notes and biographical sketches; or whose texts were more of a literary study than a biography proper.\ud \ud In chapters four to nine, I selected the most renowned, productive writers who best represented methodologies of biography writing. Perhaps certain writers have not\ud been mentioned in this period of study. This is not out of negligence but simply because their texts were totally out of reach, or their writings did not exhibit the\ud required literary criteria.\ud \ud All methodologies representing the theory of biography writing in Egypt have been analysed in these chapters. All, in fact, form a digestion or assimilation of French,English and German schools. In Egypt, Taha Husayn is considered the chairman of the French school, al-Mazini and al-Aqqad of the English/German schools, al-Nuwaihi of the psychoanalytical/anatomical school and Sidqi who employed both. By contrast, al Iryan was the trailblazer of the distinguished biographical novel.\ud \ud In these chapters, I tried to lay out the general outlines these writers have produced in the production of biographical texts, and how these attempts were a successful step on the road of presenting literary biographies characterized by high world standards.\ud \ud Chapter ten may well seem traditional, but it is important to give a comparative outlook on the views of biography writers themselves when they study and analyse\ud the same character.\ud \ud Among the characters studied ,I selected Bashsliar, Abu Nuwas, Ibn al-Run-i, al-Mutanabbi and al-Maarri. These are outstanding landmarks in the history of Arab verse and the subject of a multitude of studies as well. Modern biographers took these figures as a test field for the deployment and employment of biographical methodologies. I selected these examples to provide comparisons and explain how far these biographies were successful in producing a biography or a profile of those classical poets.\ud \ud The conclusion and the bibliographical list arrived at the end of research.\ud \ud I wish, however, to clarify one important point here. It seems that I could not fix the year 1950 as the temporal parameter of my research but took some textswhich were\ud published shortly beyond that point. The reason for this obvious extension was either to give additional useful details or simply because chapters of such texts had already\ud been published prior to that year and were known to the readership.\ud \ud At times I would satisfy myself with analysing the part rather than the whole. This again was meant to eschew repetition or was due to the fact that the book in question\ud was not available

Publisher: Arabic & Middle Eastern Studies (Leeds)
Year: 1999
OAI identifier:

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