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Alexandrian CosmopolitanismAn Archive$
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Hala Halim

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780823251766

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823251766.001.0001

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“Polypolis” and Levantine Camp

“Polypolis” and Levantine Camp

(p.226) Chapter Four “Polypolis” and Levantine Camp
Alexandrian Cosmopolitanism

Bernard de Zogheb

Fordham University Press

The chapter addresses the comic operettas written by a virtually unknown Alexandrian Syro-Lebanese author, Bernard de Zogheb, between the 1940s and 1990s, against the backdrop of the dissolution of empire in the eastern and southern Mediterranean and the postindependence period. The libretti—only one of which was published, thanks to the patronage of James Merrill—are written in a lingua franca-like pidgin Italian and set to popular tunes. The argument is made that the operettas instantiate a parodic camp reclamation of verbal mongrelization and gilded mores, undertaking a dual process of self-actualization, of homoeroticism and an upper-crust Alexandrian Levantine cosmopolitanism. In dialogue with Western redactions of Levantinism, the libretti also engage canonical writers of the city, such as Cavafy and Forster, as well as writers whose work engaged the literary triumvirate, such as Robert Liddell and Christian Ayoub Sinano. But a reading of four of the libretti reveals the limitations of this project which falls short of wholly embracing other ethnicities and less privileged classes, ultimately betraying an undertow of interpellation that prevents it from fully coming to terms with the survival of colonial tropes of Levantinism in a Mediterranean reinscribed in terms of the North and the South.

Keywords:   Lingua franca, Pidgin, Operetta, Queerness, Camp, Homoeroticism, Levantinism, Mediterranean

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