Have they not followed the example of our women? Wardah al-Yāziǧī on Women Poets, Nation-building and Exemplarity

in La rivista di Arablit, a. XII, n. 24, dicembre 2022, pp. 23-42.

The cultural Renaissance of the Nahḍah in the late 19th and early 20th centuries gave rise to new issues and trends. Egyptian and Syrian Lebanese women intellectuals claimed more space in the public arena, while supporting the nationalist movements on the rise in their countries. The reflection on women’s role in a modern country was central, leading to an investigation into who could be the most suitable models, in an often lively tension between Eastern heritage and assumed Western modernity. Within this debate, one of the more structured positions was held by the Lebanese poet and intellectual Wardah al-Yāziǧī (1838-1924) in her essay al-Mar’ah al-šarqiyyah (1906).
This paper seeks to explore the intersections of the issues of women’s advancement and nationalism in al-Yāziǧī’s vision, with commentated excerpts from her
al-Mar’ah al-šarqiyyah. The author’s reflections are set within a broader theoretical framework which encompasses the rediscovery of the genealogy of both famous and often little-known Arab women poets, and the author’s reflection on autochthonous models. In doing so, literature, women’s issues and nationalism interrelate through the unifying instrument of a pedagogical perspective.

During the Nahḍah, the Renaissance of the Arab-Islamic world that took place between the second half of the 19th century and the 1920s, intellectuals developed new ideas and themes which would be fundamental in reshaping Arab countries and the Arab culture. The resulting forms included both the traditional values and the changes of a quickly evolving world. Culturally, this implied a wide-ranging endeavour involving literati in the fields of language, literature, and journalism, interacting with the debate on political identity and the concept of nationality1.
In a society where religious affiliation was a primary and officially-recognized marker of identity, some wanted to think according to nation-based terms that would override religious belonging as the basis of the community. The concepts of homeland (waṭan) and nationalism (waṭaniyyah), were being formulated by Christian Syrian intellectuals such as Buṭrus al-Bustānī […]

1I. Camera d’Afflitto, Letteratura araba contemporanea. Dalla nahḍah a oggi, Carocci, Roma 20072, pp. 18-27.

This is an Article from La Rivista di Arablit - Anno XII, numero 24, dicembre 2022

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