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Literary Intellectuals

East and West


Abdulla M. Al-Dabbagh

The modernist movement, in literature as well as in criticism, provides a very instructive case of iconoclastic canon-change and subsequent canon-formation, and modern British literary criticism has been remarkably canon-forming in its basic tendency. This is particularly true of the line in British criticism that has revealed strong cultural preoccupations primarily centered on the works of T. S. Eliot and F. R. Leavis. George Orwell is a figure in the history of British cultural criticism who links the pre-war and the post-war generations of modernist writers and critics. Raymond Williams is the direct continuator of the line in English literary and cultural criticism formed by Eliot, Lawrence, and Leavis. The first seven of the essays collected in this book deal with Western intellectuals – in fact, with this largely British tradition of cultural criticism. They continue the argument, centered on these main figures, as it has subsequently developed in the works of Christopher Caudwell, E. P. Thompson, Perry Anderson, and John McGrath, among others, and touch upon more contemporary literary and cultural issues. Some of these issues, such as the spread of Islamophobia among a number of contemporary British intellectuals, are also discussed in another chapter in the book, and the division of what may be called the international intelligentsia into radicals, pundits, renegades, and imposters, in another chapter. The last three essays deal with major Arab intellectuals and Arab literary and cultural concerns. They focus mainly on the relationships of these key figures with political power, cultural identity, and exile.
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Chapter 8: Power and the Radical Arab Intellectual: Three Case Studies


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This chapter attempts to analyze the complexities of the relationship between the radical, Arab intellectual and political power in modern times through the examination of three cases—those of Taha Hussain, Al-Jawahiry, and Edward Said. Spanning the course of the whole of the twentieth-century, the careers of these three key, radical Arab intellectuals offer illustrative and illuminating examples of the relationship between political power and intellectuals in the Arab world generally. Although there are important differences between the three key figures—with Taha Hussain being the major example of the pioneering Arab intellectual of the early decades of the twentieth-century, the period of the Arab intellectual awakening, Al-Jawahiry, the exemplary political poet and intellectual and key leader in a mass political movement, and Edward Said, the exemplary Arab radical intellectual in exile who achieved international prestige and prominence—they share particularly illuminating similarities in the way they dealt or had to deal with political authority. While they largely reflect the changing historical conditions of early, middle, and late twentieth-century Arab socio-political and cultural conditions, the careers of these three figures also express, most deeply and extensively, themes that are common to generations of Arab intellectuals. In addition to the issue of coming to terms with the powers that be, these themes also include harmonizing ← 109 | 110 → local culture with western, and international, culture, the homeland and the attachment to place, and the issue of exile and...

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