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Volume :27 Issue : 106 2009      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

The Theory of the Political Periodisation of Literary History: Origins and Extensions (in Arabic)

Auther : Mohammed Mriny

Writings on literary history vary according to the methodological starting-points which different historians adopt. Yet, one can distinguish between three different approaches: an approach based on a division in terms of political periods, another one based on a division in terms of genres, and a third one based on the categorization of literary works into schools and literary movements. This study is exclusively concerned with the examination and analysis of the first method-which relies on political periodisation in its historicizing of literature-given that it is the most commonly used of the above-mentioned types. This analysis falls under two main sections: the first section probes the theoretical origins of this method according to their emergence in Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. These origins consist fundamentally in two theories: the ‘theory of progress’ and the ‘philological theory’. The theory of progress is predicated on two ideas: the idea of ‘unity’, which has to do with the admission that there exist similar laws governing the historical process of all nations and peoples in a way that may lead to the unity of human history. The second idea is that of ‘progress’, which presumes that man is ever advancing, in a growing development towards human perfection. Philology, on the other hand, is a theory was concerned - at the beginning - with the secrets of languages, viewing them as being organized in a connected chain, and as being dependent on certain laws and systems that variously embody and imitate human thought. These factors constituted an epistemological beginning to what is labelled ‘the historical-philological approach’, which later went beyond the sphere of language to embrace the field of literary criticism and literary theory. The principle of political priodisation and the philological approach to texts are thus the major foundations on which the political periodisation of literary history rests. Most of the books that historicized European literatures in this period-drew upon these two principles in one way or another. This kind of periodisation had a notable impact on the writings that attempted to historicize Arabic literature. The Orientalist writings were the first to appear, and then there appeared the works of the Arab historians who were influenced in this domain by Orientalists’ publications.

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