What Makes a Man? Sex Talk in Beirut and Berlin
By Rashid al-Daif and Joachim Helfer. Translated by Ken Seigneurie and Gary Schmidt
This “novelized biography” by Lebanese novelist Rashid al-Daif and pointed riposte by German novelist Joachim Helfer demonstrate how attitudes toward sex and masculinity across cultural contexts are intertwined with the work of fiction, thereby highlighting the importance of fantasy in understanding the Other.
This book was reviewed by Nahrain Al-Mousawi for Qantara, “An Honest and Painful Cultural Exchange.”
It was also reviewed by Robert Deam Tobin in the German Quarterly, October 1, 2016: https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-4252623441/what-makes-a-man-sex-talk-in-beirut-and-berlin
See also The Portland Book Review
Standing by the Ruins: Elegiac Humanism in Wartime and Postwar Lebanon (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011). Argues for the emergence of a distinctive aesthetic in contemporary Lebanese fiction, film and popular culture from the twin legacies of commitment literature and the ancient topos of “standing by the ruins.”
Named an “Outstanding Academic Title” of 2012 by Choice magazine.
“Fascinating, eloquent, and tightly argued, Standing by the Ruins offers a distinctive perspective on relations between cultural productions and politics in times of extreme duress.Across a range of fascinating examples, Seigneurie shows the ways in which novelists and filmmakers offer alternative visions in a collapsing world that can set the stage for new ways of imagining the future.”—David Damrosch, Harvard University
“An excellent study of the cultural production of Lebanese society resulting from the period of civil war.”——Roger Allen, University of Pennsylvania
Since the mid-1970s, Lebanon has been at the center of the worldwide rise in sectarian extremism. Its cultural output has both mediated and resisted this rise. Standing by the Ruins reviews the role of culture in supporting sectarianism yet argues for the emergence of a distinctive aesthetic of resistance to it.
Focusing on contemporary Lebanese fiction, film, and popular culture, this book shows how artists reappropriated the twin legacies of commitment literature and the ancient topos of “standing by the ruins” to form a new “elegiac humanism” during the tumultuous period of 1975 to 2005. It redirects attention to the critical role of culture in conditioning attitudes throughout society and is therefore relevant to other societies facing sectarian extremism.
Modern Arabic novels, feature films, and popular culture, far from being simply cultural imports, are hybrid forms deployed to respond to the challenges of contemporary Arab society. As such, they are cultural products that travel and intervene in the world.
This book was reviewed by Michael Teague in an article, “Learning to Listen: Lebanon’s ‘Ruins’ Testify on Enduring Tragedy.” Al Jadid 17:64.
It was also reviewed by Nesrine Chahine in Comparative Literature Studies 50:4 (2013).
Crisis and Memory: The Representation of Space in Modern Levantine Narrative, edited by Ken Seigneurie (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2003). Explores the literary representation of social and political crises that have punctuated the second half of the twentieth-century in the Middle East.
From the creation of the state of Israel and its continuing aftermath, to the Suez crisis, to the expulsion of the PLO from Jordan, to the Lebanese civil war, literature “has been there” but seldom has it been considered a useful lens for understanding the ground of these crises. This collection of essays aims to show how literature can illuminate crises of ethnicity, gender, class, religion, and nation. Contributors hail from several countries and display a variety of critical approaches but all focus on the representation of space in narrative.
This book was reviewed by Ibrahim Taha in Middle Eastern Literatures 10:2, pp. 188-193.
Selected Articles and Book Chapters
“The Role of Arabic Literature in World Literature.” Chapter for Teaching Modern Arabic Literature in English Translation. Ed. Michelle Hartman. New York: Modern Language Association, 2018. 21-40.
“The Institution and the Practice of Comparative Literature in Lebanon.” Comparative Literature Studies 51.3 (2014): 373-396.
“Discourses of the 2011 Arab Revolutions.” Journal of Arabic Literature 43.2-3 (2013): 484-509.
“Irony and Counter-Irony in Rashid al-Daif’s How The German Came to His Senses.” College Literature, 37.1 (2010). 38-60.
“The Wrench and the Ratchet: Cultural Mediation in a Contemporary Liberation Struggle” Public Culture, 21.2 (2009). 377-402.
“Anointing with Rubble: Ruins in the Lebanese War Novel.” Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. 28.1 (2008): 50-60.
“Ongoing War and Arab Humanism.” Geomodernisms: “Race,” Modernism, Modernity, eds. Laura Doyle and Laura Winkiel. Bloomington: Indiana UP, 2005. 96-113.
“Sweeping The Alexandria Quartet out of a Dusty Corner.” Deus Loci. (2003-2005). 82-110.
“Decolonizing the British: Deflections of Desire in The Alexandria Quartet.” South Atlantic Review. 69: 1 (Winter 2004): 85-108.
“The Importance of Being Kawabata: The Narratee in Today’s Literature of Commitment.” JNT: Journal of Narrative Theory. 34:1 (Winter 2004): 54-73.
“Introduction: A Survival Aesthetic for Ongoing War.” Crisis and Memory, ed. Ken Seigneurie. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2003. 11-32.
“The Everyday World of War in Hassan Daoud’s House of Mathilde.” Crisis and Memory, ed. Ken Seigneurie. Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2003. 101-14.
“The Flickering Light of Literature: 8–18 February 2000.” Profession 2000. Modern Language Association, 2000. 46-53.