Contemporary French Civilization

In 3/4, a trembling question: Mediterranean literature?

Contemporary French Civilization (2017), 42, (1), 75–96.

Abstract

In counterpoint to debates on littérature-monde, I outline the emergence of Mediterranean literature, uniquely positioned as a concept to productively break with old frustrations over globalizing universalist tendencies, and the French/francophone divide. The modern Mediterranean selectively striates and structures a detotalitizing literature whose self-consciousness creatively prolongs the composite genealogies and trajectories of preand early modern texts, histories, and ideas to the present day. While ambiguous and contradictory modes of discourse abound on and in the Mediterranean, Mediterranean literature diverges aesthetically in its avoidance of the norms of writing back in the critical, resistive political traditions to decolonize French and francophone literary prose. It seeks illogical, poetic alternatives instead. It attempts to reconcile prosody and prose with a deep, archaic poetic archive that stretches from twentiethcentury post-structuralism, structuralism, and earlier avant-gardist intellectual modes, further back to early Islamic ritual, and even pre-Islamic poetics. Its dominant thrust shifts attention toward a poetry-centric swerve across the entirety of the modern Mediterranean’s textual-literary littoral. In its wake, in the light of the potential intertextual openings it instigates, an immense literary transhistoricity and translinguistic divergence emerges, which short-circuits polemical identity politics and (trans)nationalist-linguistic reflexes to inscribe and understand literature. Through an unfolding of the notions of illogic, indefinition, innumerability, enigma, mobility, emergence, resonance, and the dichromatic in works by Salah Stétié, Emmanuel Hocquard, and Abdelwahab Meddeb, I am able to present an illustration of what a close reading of a prototypical piece of modern Mediterranean literature may resemble.

En contrepoint aux débats sur la littérature-monde, nous traçons les contours d’une littérature méditerranéenne, uniquement posée pour mettre fin aux anciennes frustrations autour des tendances universelles globalisantes, et de la scission français/francophone. La Méditerranée moderne allonge et étale une littérature détotalisante, dont l’autoconscience prolonge jusqu’au présent les trajectoires et les généalogies composites de textes, d’histoires et d’idées médiévales et pré-modernes. Bien qu’abondent, sur et dans la Méditerranée, des modes de discours ambigus et contradictoires, la littérature méditerranéenne se diverge d’un point de vue esthétique en évitant les normes de la contreattaque, selon les traditions de la résistance politique et critique pour décoloniser la prose française et francophone. Elle recherche plutôt des alternatives illogiques et poétiques. Elle tente à réconcilier la prosodie et la prose à travers des riches archives archaïques et poétiques, décèlant ainsi le poststructuralisme et le structuralisme du vingtième siècle, en passant par les modes intellectuels avant-gardistes précédents, et en remontant jusqu’aux rites de l’islam naissant, et même à la poétique antéislamique. La force dominante de la littérature méditerranéenne porte notre attention vers une embardée intellectuelle, axée sur le poétique, dans tout le pourtour textuel-littéraire de la Méditerranée. Dans son sillage, à la lumière des ouvertures intertextuelles potentielles qu’elle inaugure, voit le jour une immense divergence littéraire transhistorique et translinguistique, ce qui court-circuite les politiques identitaires polémiques, ainsi que la méthodologie d’inscription et de compréhension de la littérature que visent les reflexes (trans)nationalistes-linguistiques. A travers un dépliement des notions d’illogique, indéfinition, innombrabilité, énigme, mobilité, émergence, résonance, et le dichromatique, dans des œuvres de Salah Stétié, d’Emmanuel Hocquard, et d’Abdelwahab Meddeb, nous présentons une illustration de ce à quoi ressemblerait une lecture close d’une œuvre méditerranéenne moderne prototype.

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Elhariry, Yasser