‘Displaced Texts: Arabic Literature in the Anglophone Literary Marketplace’
Seminar for Semitic and Arabic Studies
2020 Humboldt Research Fellowship Programme for Postdoctoral Researchers
This project, ‘Displaced Texts: Arabic Literature in the Anglophone Literary Marketplace’, investigates how Arabic, and in particular Palestinian, literary works enter and circulate within the marketplace. It prioritises the question of displacement, both as a key theme of Palestine literature and as a factor in its production, with many Palestinian writers and the institutions that support them having been displaced. Consequently Palestinian literary works, whether produced by authors based in historic Palestine or throughout the diaspora, are overwhelmingly published outside of Palestine. This includes presses elsewhere in the Middle East – commonly Amman, Beirut and Cairo – and those much further afield, such as the literary centres of London and New York, where the globally dominant publishing conglomerates are clustered. This project will trace the often complicated journeys that texts take in order to reach and circulate within the Anglophone marketplace.
‘Displaced Texts’ scrutinises all aspects of the publishing industry, including publishing houses, literary prizes and festivals, the process of translation and the networks of literary agents, academics and cultural critics who facilitate the publication of Palestinian literature in English. It also examines individual publications and how they are packaged and received, assessing the broader impact of the socio-political lens through which publishers and critics routinely perceive Palestine and present its literature. Overall, the project conceptualises the factors determining what gets published, translated and reviewed – and what does not.
The ability to work closely with the PalREAD project and its database will allow this research to be fully developed into a monograph on Palestinian literature and the politics of the marketplace. Longer-term, I intend to pursue a larger project looking more broadly at Arabic literature and the journeys that texts take to reach a global readership, paying particular attention to contemporary Iraqi and Syrian literature in the context of twenty-first century displacement.
- Palestinian literature, Arabic literature, displacement, Anglophone publishing, translation, bibliography