Mahmoud and his Fathers: Classicism, Colonialism, and Modernity in the Work of Mahmoud Darwish

A lecture by Tamim Al-Barghouti, Georgetown University

The work of Mahmoud Darwish contributed to the establishment of a Palestinian self image and to significant changes in the style of contemporary Arabic poetry. Much was written on how modern and modernizing his literary project was in the context of a revolutionary national movement that also claimed to be modern and modernizing. Both, the poetry and the movement sought, on the on hand, to assert a national self and, on the other, to transform it. The purpose of this short presentation is to explore the viability of an alternative approach to both poetry and movement underlining their classical shades and lineage; the shades concern form, the lineage concerns substance. Rather than a land/nature bound literature of nationalist/romantic aesthetics, one might be able to discern a new form of language bound poetry of classical function.  The role of lyrical poetry as a cradle of identity, as well as an epistemological tool by which to rename, redefine, animate and therefore control and own the world seems to have survived from ancient times, linking Mahmoud to a long line of Arab poets that can be traced back to late antiquity. Such continuity might shed light not only Mahmoud’s work, but also, on the historical/political significance of contemporary Arabic poetry in General.

Lecture was part of the one-day conference held on November 5, 2009.

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Duration: 27:38

Published: Monday, January 25, 2010