The influence of Vissarion Belinskiī on the literary criticism of Mikhail Naimy

Liberal Arts in Russia 5 (4):323-348 (2016)

In the article the influence of Russian literary criticism on writings of Mikhail Naimy, the world renowned figure in modern Arabic literature, is studied. Together other Arab-American men of letters he founded the Pen Association, a literary league in New York that lifted Arabic literature from the quagmire of stagnation, imitation and old classicism. They also promoted the new generation of Arab writers and made it an active force in Arab nationalism. In this article the author touches upon the only one aspect of Naimy’s multifaceted literary efforts, his literary criticism. The article is focused on the key role of the Russian influence in its development. We would claim that along with Arabic influence the American and Western Europe literary traditions played a secondary role in Naimy’s development. Only the Russian school had produced a developed theory of criticism and an understanding of literature that positioned the critic, along with the writer, as a social reformer, and viewed criticism along with writing as a social labor. It was Russian literature that had the most important impact on Naimy. This influence has still only been studied superficially aside from some Soviet era analyses. The article makes a much-needed contribution to this blank spot, since the Russian authors contributed greatly to the foundation of the modern Arabic literature. It also sheds light on global literary processes, as Naimy was able to synthesize Russian, European and American literary and critical traditions into his native Arabic heritage. The study has significant methodological value, as it will identify the typology and significance of cultural contacts, based on the example of influence mentioned above. It will also contribute to an important topic of the renewed interest in the academy - Russian influences and impacts in the Middle East and in Arabic culture and literature.
Keywords Mikhail Naimy   Vissarion Belinskii   Russian influence   modern Arabic literature   Russian literary criticism
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