• Guest Editor’s Note: The Neoclassical Bias in Translation

    This is the first of two consecutive issues of JLS devoted to language and translation, specifically to the relationship between Arabic and Hebrew. In the current issue, we address the limits of the neoclassical model of translation, referring to the redefinition of translation in fifteenth-century Europe and infusing it with the spirit of the Renaissance. In a nutshell, the neoclassical model tends to individualize the translator’s identity, to privatize the spatial dimensions of translation, and to eliminate verbal dialogue.Furthermore, it dictates a forward-moving unidirectional formula of translation that usurps the original text and occupies its place; it silences any form of dialogue and replaces conversation and reciprocal dialogue with philology, linguistics, and hermeneutics. Under colonial conditions, the neoclassical model aggravates these limitations, since it reproduces in the translation room the very same asymmetry that typifies the exterior conditions and the power relations between languages. I begin this discussion by examining the emergence of the effects of the neoclassical model on translation in general, and in particular its predicament in relation to translation between Arabic and Hebrew – past, present, and future.

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  • The Philological Revolution and the Latinization of Arabic

    This article looks at the philological revolution and its influence on Oriental studies and Arabic studies in Germany generally, and on the German philological approach to Arabic studies within the Jewish community in Mandatory Palestine in particular. I argue that following this philological surge, the field of Arabic studies within the Jewish community went through a process of “Latinization”—a shift from an Arabic that is connected to daily, social life as a vehicle for communication to an Orientalist textual orientation having three clear principles: emphasis on the study of Arabic grammar, de-Arabization of the field in terms of experts and decision makers, and the treatment of Arabic as a classical language whose value lies in the past. I argue that the study of Arabic was juxtaposed with the study of Latin, which resulted in Arabic being seen not as a “living language” that is heard and used but as a language with mainly historical, religious, and disciplinary values. These Latinized pillars of Arabic studies—alongside additional sociopolitical processes that are beyond the scope of this article—had great influence in shaping the field of Arabic language studies in the Jewish community. I show how the main figures behind this shift were primarily German Jewish scholars who graduated from German universities. These scholars played a dominant role in two central, competing educational spheres in the country, in which the field of Arabic studies was forged and in which new norms of study and knowledge of Arabic were founded: The Hebrew University (where the Institute of Oriental Studies was established) and the school system (led by the Hebrew Reali School in Haifa). This new situation resulted in the creation of a new “Europeanized” Arabic in the heart of the Arab world.

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  • Hashim Salih, الانسداد التاريخي: لماذا فشل مشروع التنوير في العالم العربي؟ [The historical deadlock: Why did the Enlightenment project fail in the Arab world?]. Beirut: Dar al-Saqi and The Association of Arab Rationalists, 2007. 304 pp.

    Hashim Salih,  الانسداد التاريخي: لماذا فشل مشروع التنوير في العالم العربي؟ [The historical deadlock: Why did the Enlightenment project fail in the Arab world?]. Beirut: Dar al-Saqi and The Association of Arab Rationalists, 2007. 304 pp.

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    Abandoning Language: The Project of Arab-Jewish Subjectivity in Sami Michael’s Arabic Fiction of the 1950s

    Sami Michael is a well-known, Iraqi-born Israeli writer whose best-selling works have been widely discussed in both public and academic discourse. However, long before writing in Hebrew, Michael published several short stories and articles in his native Arabic during the 1950s. This article examines a selection of Michael’s Arabic stories and frames them as the genesis of his representations of Arab-Jewish subjectivity, while also emphasizing the importance of the fact that a well-known Israeli writer began his literary career in Arabic. I argue that to sketch out a fuller picture of Michael’s literary voice, we must take into account the ways in which his early Arabic writings were precursors of his later Hebrew novels and how the process of abandoning his native language was formative even before his switch to Hebrew. The short stories discussed here all confront the ambivalences and, importantly, the possibilities that characterize Michael’s imagined Arab-Jewish subjectivity, suggesting it to be a literary sensibility fraught with a paradoxical sense of simultaneous potential and dissolution.

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    We can’t understand ourselves without the Arabic: Dreams in Cambridge (2009)

    In this paper I discuss the question of Jewish-Arab identity, its intergenerational differences, its different definitions in Hebrew and Arabic, and the differences in its usage in modern times and earlier periods. In Jewish-Arab identity, as in every identity, there is a mixture of self-identification and outer-identification. Whatever one’s reason for identifying as an Arab-Jew—whether related to the historical and cultural background or because one’s family identified this way prior to Zionism and immigration or in defiance of today’s national identities in Israel and the Arab world—it does not “have” to create as strong an objection as it does. However, the objection is understood when it is an outer-identification that flattens differences between historical periods, regions, or differences between the Jews of the Muslim world. In the late nineteenth century, Jewish-Arab identity was an identification with the Nahḍa movement, with the awakening of Arabic literature and language, and it sought to reweave Jewish-Arab identity, written culture, and memory into the Arab revival, or at least into the Arab literary imagination. Later, in the first half of the twentieth century, Jewish-Arab identity was an identification with local Arab nationalism in the different Arab lands, seen as a potential for a large-scale project, started by the intellectual elite, that would make Jews an integral and equal part of their societies. In the second half of the twentieth century, after 1948 and after immigration, mostly to Israel, Jewish-Arab identity was an identity that expressed criticism of both national projects, Jewish and Arab, their marginalization and nonacceptance of the Arab-Jews, and their exclusive and oppressive nature.

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