Alexandrian CosmopolitanismAn Archive

Alexandrian CosmopolitanismAn Archive

Hala Halim

Print publication date: 2014

ISBN: 9780823251766

Publisher: Fordham University Press

Abstract

Interrogating how Alexandria became enshrined as the exemplary cosmopolitan space in the Middle East, this book mounts a radical critique of Eurocentric conceptions of cosmopolitanism. The dominant account of Alexandrian cosmopolitanism is a colonial one that elevates things European in the city's culture and simultaneously places things Egyptian under the sign of decline. The book goes beyond this civilization/barbarism binary to trace articulations of intercultural solidarity. Halim presents an interdisciplinary comparative study of literary representations, addressing poetry, fiction, guidebooks, and operettas, among other genres. She reappraises three writers—C. P. Cavafy, E. M. Forster, and Lawrence Durrell—whom she maintains have been cast as the canon of the city in a belated “Alexandrianism.” Attending to genre, gender, ethnicity, and class, she refutes the view that these writers’ representations are largely congruent and uncovers a variety of positions ranging from Orientalist to anti-colonial. The book then turns to Bernard de Zogheb, a virtually unpublished writer, and elicits his camp parodies of elite Levantine mores in operettas one of which centres on Cavafy. Drawing on Arabic critical and historical texts, as well as contemporary writers’ and filmmakers’ engagement with the canonical triumvirate, Halim orchestrates an Egyptian dialogue with the European representations.