Teresa Pepe

Teresa Pepe is a post-doctoral fellow at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages at the University of Oslo. She holds a PhD in Middle Eastern Studies and Literature from the University of Oslo and an MA from the University of Naples “L’Orientale”.

Her current research project is entitled “The adīb and adab – Demise, or metamorphosis, of a key figure and of a key concept of the Arab modernist project?” and explores how the role of writers and intellectuals has evolved during the 20th century in Arabic/Egyptian society.

Her forthcoming book, Bytes of Freedom: Writing the Self in the Egyptian Blogosphere, explores the literary features of Egyptian autofictional blogs written between 2005 and 2016, in light of the political events of the 25th January Revolution and of previous autobiographical writings in Arabic Literature. Among her recent publications: “Cultivating the Self and Building Communities in Egyptian Autofictional Blogs”, in La littérature à l'heure du Printemps arabe: analyse et perspectives, ed. Sobhi Boustani and Rashid al-Enany (2016); “When Writers Activate Readers. How the autofictional blog transforms Arabic Literature” in Journal of Arabic and Islamic Studies (2015), 15, 73-91.

The Metamorphosis of the Writer/ Intellectual (adīb) in Egypt: A conceptual-historical approach (1890-2017)

This paper sheds light on the conceptual transformation of the term adīb’ as it has been used in Egyptian cultural field from the nahḍa to present times. Recent studies have shown how the nahḍa has witnessed a transformation of the concept of adab’ into ‘literature’. However, they leave open the question of who the ‘adīb’, a subject exhibiting or embodying ‘adab’, is. Indeed, the term transforms significantly over the century, and not necessarily in synchrony with ‘adab’.

The discussion applies the method of conceptual history and K. Mannheim’s theory of the sociology of generations on a number of statements made by Egyptian writers in the historical cultural press, critical essays, and interviews from 1880 until 2017. It shows that different cohorts of writers have theorized the ‘adīb’ in different ways in successive periods of time: from the “man of letters/intellectual” according to the 1919 Generation of writers to the “author of fiction” for the 1952 generation, while it has absorbed also the negative nuance of “pedantic, didactic writer” for the 1990s generation. In the final part, the paper inquires how the same concept is being challenged again and re-imagined anew in the post-Arab Spring scene in the midst of global and local cultural transformations.