“Far Away from the First Sky”: Arabic Literary Writing in Western Exile
A lecture by Yair Horesh, 2013 Greenberg Scholar-in-Residence
Monday, October 7 at 7:30 p.m.
Davis Auditorium, Skidmore College
The event is free and open to the public.
The experience of exile has been an essential generative force for Middle Eastern writers and intellectuals throughout the 20th century, and arguably long before. Indeed, Arabic literature in modern times has undergone a significant part of its development outside the geographical boundaries of the Middle East. Whether the exile was forced or voluntary, the convergence of expatriation with the experience of creativity has been an ongoing force in artistic and literary vanguardism. The lecture will focus on the dialectic by which exiled Arab writers and intellectuals throughout the last decades have refigured and reimagined both aesthetic and geographic boundaries.
Yair Horesh is the fall 2013 Greenberg Middle East Scholar-in-Residence at Skidmore College. He is a tenured senior lecturer and the director of the Arabic Language and Culture Program in the Department of Middle East Studies at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. In the past, he has been a visiting lecturer in Tel-Aviv University, Hebrew University and at the Israeli branch of New York University. His research focuses primarily on modern Arabic Literature (particularly the literature written in Western exile) and Arab intellectual thought as reflected in literary and critical works. In the field of Arabic exilic literature he seeks to explore the literary and poetic rendition of displacement in the writings of major contemporary Arab writers, poets and intellectuals. Through thematic analysis and close readings that place their texts within wider literary contexts, he attempts to offer in his studies a coherent framework for understanding the literary body of work created by these men of letters. In his study, he views the literary and poetic texts as scripts arising out of the particular effects of exile from their homeland or former way of life, enabling the writers, from the position of expatriation, to imaginatively reenter the home space and to negotiate the narratives of “belonging and longing.” He also argues that these texts not only register the distinct sense of loss and the profound up rootedness, but also demonstrate how these poets exhibit a radical openness to their exilic surroundings.
While in residence at Skidmore, Horesh teaches a course ttitled “Introduction to the Modern Intellectual History of the Arab Middle East.” This is an introductory course in Middle Eastern history tracing the development of modern intellectual discourse as manifested in the writings of the prominent Arab thinkers from the period of the Arab Renaissance (late 19th century) to the present time. The course explores major intellectual works and focus on issues such as: the tension between tradition and modernity, post-colonialism and the West, gender and women's rights, religion and secularism, freedom and political oppression, exile and up rootedness, nationalism and collective memory.