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Literary Representations of Alexandria: Cosmopolitanism and History in Lawrence Durrell, André Aciman, and Ibrahim Abdul Meguid

Aljahdali, Banan (2021) Literary Representations of Alexandria: Cosmopolitanism and History in Lawrence Durrell, André Aciman, and Ibrahim Abdul Meguid. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent,. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.87669) (KAR id:87669)


During the first half of the twentieth century, Alexandria underwent significant historical changes, including war and decolonization. This inspired various literary reconstructions by colonial and postcolonial authors in both English and Arabic. My study examines how Alexandria was given a literary form and represented during these crucial times in the history of the city. It brings together and critically interrogates diverse perspectives: the voice of the colonizer represented by Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet (1962), the voice of the Alexandrian minority represented by André Aciman's Out of Egypt (1994), and the voice of the Egyptians represented by Ibrahim Abdul Meguid's No One Sleeps in Alexandria (1996; trans. 1999). It compares and contrasts these different representations of the city, its history, and its cosmopolitan makeup. Using Said's conception of orientalism and other postcolonial critics, this study argues that the Alexandria Quartet and Out of Egypt feature orientalist representations of Alexandria, while No One Sleeps in Alexandria finds in realism a useful frame to counteract those representations.The thesis is composed of four chapters. The first chapter discusses the history of Egypt from Muhammad Ali to Nasser, the timeframe of the works under discussion. This chapter highlights the historical transformations Egypt, and Alexandria in particular, have experienced, and it helps to clarify the literary representation of history in each work. The second chapter examines Lawrence Durrell's Alexandria Quartet and argues that the tetralogy is an orientalist representation of Alexandria and its inhabitants, and that the permanence of cosmopolitanism in Durrell's Alexandria is linked to British domination. Durrell's representation is an example and continuation of Western orientalist discourse that started centuries ago.The third chapter argues that André Aciman used Durrell's Alexandria Quartet as a guide for his representation of Alexandria in Out of Egypt. Aciman's focus on his Jewishcommunity produces an orientalist representation of the city from which the city itself and its locals outside the community are absent. Furthermore, Aciman presents a reductionist conception of cosmopolitanism in two different sites: his Jewish community and Victoria College.The last chapter discusses voices of the Egyptians and their self-representation of Alexandria as a form of writing back to empire. The main focus of this chapter is No One Sleeps in Alexandria, with additional references to Naguib Mahfouz's Miramar (1967; trans. 1993) and Edwar Al-Kharrat's City of Saffron (1980; trans. 1989). Using the technique of realism, Abdul Meguid presents a humanizing depiction of the city by giving voice to the locals (both Copts and Muslims) in order for them to speak of their suffering under colonial power and during the two World Wars. He actively re-centres the voices that Durrell and Aciman marginalize.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Abu-Manneh, Dr. Bashir
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.87669
Uncontrolled keywords: cosmopolitanism, Alexandria, history, Lawrence Durrell, André Aciman, Ibrahim Abdul Meguid, Alexandria Quartet, Out of Egypt, No One Sleeps in Alexandria, orientalism
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of English
SWORD Depositor: System Moodle
Depositing User: System Moodle
Date Deposited: 19 Apr 2021 10:10 UTC
Last Modified: 01 Mar 2024 00:00 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

University of Kent Author Information

Aljahdali, Banan.

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