Saint Petersburg State University
St Petersburg, Russia
20-22 June 2013
For nearly one hundred years, Russian literature provided some of the most important sources and models against which Arabic prose writers developed their ideas and styles. Yet this deep connection has been largely overlooked in the standard scholarship on Arabic literature in western languages and in Arabic: occluded by the end of the Cold War, ill-served by departmental cleavages and language gaps between Slavic and Middle Eastern studies, and marginalized by literary-critical discourses that have either privileged colonial/postcolonial relations or portrayed Arabic literatures as mainly beholden to classical Arabic adab. Important hints of Russian literature’s central role in some works of western scholarship went largely unexplored. Books by Arab-world-based Slavists have either focused on Russian Orientalism or downplayed the cultural centrality of their subject. Only in the past few years have a few historians and literary scholars – many of us graduate students or relatively recent PhDs– begun exploring and analyzing Russian-Arab and Soviet-Arab literary connections in earnest. Building on these efforts, this workshop in St. Petersburg will bring a sizable group of us together in person for the first time, also serving to connect scholars based in the United States with those based in Europe, Russia, and the Arab world.
The stories that are emerging from this research – about the Tolstoyan currents flowing through mahjar literature, the contributions of pioneering cross-cultural scholars like Kulthum Awdah, the vicissitudes of socialist realism, and so on – are helping to re-inscribe modern Arabic literature into the “world literature” conversation now reshaping comparative literary studies. They do so by restoring the fuller context in which modern Arab writers read and wrote, balancing the western tendency to fixate on colonial influences by exploring other, non-western, non-colonial sources of literary inspiration. What confluence of factors, we ask, made particular works of Russian literature available, attractive, and useful to Arab men and women of letters in different periods? How was Middle Eastern literature, in turn, categorized and metabolized in the Soviet sphere?
Going beyond simple “influence studies,” contributions to this workshop could address such topics as:
• Russian or Soviet education and cultural policy in the Levant and later the broader Arab world;
• histories and theories of translation and reception;
• the role of Afro-Asian Writers’ Conferences;
• the roles played by Central Asian literatures and writers in mediating between Arabic and Russian literary worlds;
• patterns and ethnographies of Arab→Soviet study abroad in the humanities;
• personal processes/histories of Russian-Arabic intercultural literary appropriation
• the available sources, lacunae, and methodological challenges of studying any of these issues.
Please send 250-word abstracts by 15 March 2013,
or questions before that, to the members of the organizing committee:
Dr Margaret Litvin, firstname.lastname@example.org, Dr Kirill Dmitriev, email@example.com,
and Dr Mikhail Suvorov, firstname.lastname@example.org.
The workshop is organized as a joint initiative by the Faculty of Asian and African Studies at the Saint Petersburg State University (Russia), the Department of Modern Languages and Comparative Literature at the Boston University (USA) and the Department of Arabic in the School of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews (Scotland).
The languages of the workshop are English, Russian and Arabic.
The participation in the workshop will be free of charge.
No additional financial support can be provided and the participants will be asked to make their visa, travelling and accommodation arrangements on their own.
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Dr Kirill Dmitriev
University of St Andrews
Scotland, UK Email: 00441334463658
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