Haifa Alfaisal

Haifa Alfaisal is Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature in the Department of English Language and Literature and King Saud University in Riyadh. She obtained her PhD from the University of Essex in 2005. Her publications include Religious Discourse in Postcolonial Studies: Magical Realism in Hombres de maíz and Bandarshah (2006), “Indigenous Epistemology and the Decolonisation of Postcolonialism” in Studies in Social and Political Thought (2011), and “World Reading Strategies: Border Reading Bandarshah” Alif 34 (2014). Her research interests involve exploring the epistemological bias in postcolonial theory, coloniality in world reading strategies and role of modernity/coloniality in the rise of modern Arabic literary criticism. He most recent publication is "Liberty and the Literary: Coloniality and Nahdawist Comparative Criticism of Rūḥī al-Khālidī’s History of the Science of Literature with the Franks, the Arabs, and Victor Hugo (1904)." Modern Language Quarterly no. 77. She is currently Visiting Scholar at the Islamic and Middle Eastern Studies (IMES) Department at the University of Edinburgh.


The Politics of Literary Value in Early Modernist Arabic Comparative Literary Criticism

 The modernist epistemic de-linking with the “medieval Islamic republic of letters,” Muhsin Musawi argues, is attributable to both the incursions of Enlightenment infused European discourse and a failure to read the import of the republic’s significant cultural capital. This paper will explore the effects of Eurocentric incursions into the transformations in literary value in the works of two of the earliest known works of comparative Arabic literary criticism: Ruhi Al-Khalidi’s 1904 The History of the Science of Literature with the Franks, the Arabs and Victor Hugo and Ahmad Dayf’s 1921 Introduction to the Study of Arab Balagha. Tracking these epistemological shifts in literary value will involve employing the various theoretical formulations of the decolonial school of thought; primarily Walter Mignolo’s coloniality/modernity complex. In so doing I direct my attention towards the internalisation of Eurocentric critiques and their instrumentality in transforming literary value. I will also be focusing on the politics involved in such processes, thereby presenting a decolonial perspective on the modernists’ engagement with their Arabic critical heritage.