The introduction expounds the central argument of the book: that Alexandrian cosmopolitanism was a quasi-colonial, largely Hellenizing discourse to which various disciplines, such as archaeology, contributed set tropes, aligning modern Alexandria to the Graeco-Roman city and eliding the Arabo-Islamic period, as well as the post-Suez one; that Western literary criticism constructed an Alexandrian canon–C. P. Cavafy, E. M. Forster and Lawrence Durrell–that it interpreted as congruent and complicit with that colonial cosmopolitanism; that the book deconstructs this received wisdom by reappraising enshrined texts and excavating disregarded or unknown ones, such as Bernard de Zogheb's, to elicit a variety of positionalities. In addition to providing a selective, critical overview of Western scholarship on cosmopolitanism, the introduction tackles cosmopolitanism in the Middle East, including Arabic terms for the concept. The introduction also dwells on the connection between Alexandrian cosmopolitanism and the Nahda and discusses a set of texts by Egyptian intellectuals and historians from Alexandria University, mainly from the 1960s and 1970s, to foreground their revisionism of the Eurocentric account of premodern, Arab Alexandria.
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