Emily Drumsta

  • Fellowship Dates 2018-2019
  • Research Topic Ways of Seeking: The Arabic Novel and the Poetics of Investigation
  • Fellow or Grant Type National Endowment for the Humanities
  • Affiliation Post-doctoral candidate Brown University
This study investigates how detective fiction entered the Arabic literary scene through translation and adaptation in the early 20th century. The resultant book, tentatively titled Ways of Seeking: the Arabic Novel and the Poetics of Investigation, uncovers an as-yet-untold story about the emergence and development of the novel-form in Arabic - a story that illustrates how detective novels, often marginalized as lowly or unserious “genre fiction,” have actually impacted the development of the modern Arabic novel in many significant ways. Ways of Seeking ultimately illustrates how Arab authors have used detective fiction to raise fundamental questions about knowledge, power and the human in the postcolonial Arab world.
Despite the general recognition within the field of Arabic literary studies that “investigation” and “detection” have been with the tradition for many centuries, no full-length study has yet been devoted to tracing the influence of detective fiction on the modern Arabic novel. Ways of Seeking aims to tell a different story about the development of the modern Arabic novel by tracing its continued engagement with the structures, themes and tropes of the detective novel. Ways of Seeking is concerned with moments in modern Arabic fiction where police investigation gives way to mystical exploration, where tahqiq gives way to bahth, and with the epistemological and poetic stakes of this shift in modern fiction. It demonstrates how reconfiguring the conventions of the detective plot allows Arab authors to hold out the novel as a form of counter-discourse to the state, writing back against systems of governance that aspire toward knowledge and, by extension, total control.

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