Impact of Anglo-American new criticism on modern Arabic discourse : the case of Shi 'r (Poetry Magazine)
Hamdan, Yousef Hussein Mahmoud
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New Criticism has had a profound impact on Arabic critical thought since the early 1950s. The reasons behind this vary from one critic to another. Some have employed New Criticism to analyse the poetic movement of Shi r al-taf īla, and its new poetic features that required innovative critical tools. Other critics’ use of New Criticism was based on their familiarity with English literary thought and schools of criticism. While some Arab critics, such as Iḥsān Abbās, Izz al-Dīn Ismā īl and Ilyās Khūrī, partially employed New Criticism, others, such as Rashād Rushdī and his students, confined themselves exclusively to New Criticism, viewing it as the only appropriate approach to literature. Members of Majallat Shi r employed many New Critical ideas, deeming them to be the modern concept of poetry. Through an in-depth reading of the articles in Shi r, and a comparative approach based on thorough study of New Critical writings, this thesis demonstrates that the majority of the critical ideas and concepts which appeared in Shi r were based on New Criticism. Additionally, the thesis illustrates that many of Shi r’s critics, particularly Yūsuf al-Khāl who dominated the magazine, showed a great deal of fascination with the New Critics, Eliot in particular. The Shi r critics’ use of New Criticism appeared to be, particularly on the theoretical level, an imitation to such an extent that one cannot find any new critical ideas in al-Khāl’s works. Additionally, the New Critics’ concepts were predominantly theoretical and largely unsupported by examples from Arabic poetry, with the exception of Jabrā’s and Khālida Sa īd’s works. In this way, Shi r critics’ contention that modern Arabic literary thought should be creative while seeking to evade the imitation of classical literary and critical accounts was fallacious as they merely replaced one form of imitation with another. Furthermore, Shi r critics called for many ideas without providing literary justifications or examples. One instance pertains to their encouragement of the use of colloquial Arabic instead of the standardised form. Furthermore, other critical problems, such as issues involving poetic ambiguity and language, were tackled insufficiently. For these reasons, this thesis characterises the relationship of Shi r critics to the New Critics as not only one of fascination and imitation, but also as a parental paradigm similar to a father-child relationship. Initially, I sought to find in Shi r new critical concepts and developments resulting from the use of New Criticism and simultaneously based on modern Arabic literature. However, much to my dismay, I discovered that the magazine’s critical project based itself, to a great extent, on the New Critical concepts without questioning or challenging them. This behaviour appears analogous to children’s imitation of their parents as an ideal form of behaviour.