PhD Thesis: “The Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture in Realist and Magical Realist Contemporary Literature”

The Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture in Realist

PhD Thesis: “The Representation of Islam and Islamic Culture in Realist and Magical Realist Contemporary Literature”

A Cultural Critique of Western Representation of Islam

Author: Norah Al-Abdallah

University: Birkbeck, University of London

Date of Award: 2022


This thesis examines the way in which cultural critique and representation of Islamic traditions have been achieved through images, multi-narrative perspective, and verbal description of images using Western symbols to avoid offense against religious doctrine. The first introductory chapter sets out the argument of the thesis. Norah Al-Abdallah examines the representation of Islam through the two literary modes of realism and magical realism. Chapter One focuses on why The Satanic Verses cannot be considered as a magical realist novel in its representation of orthodox Islam. She argues that the novel is not a magical realist novel because part of the magical realist literary mode must conform to the canons of literary realism; this criterion is not satisfied in The Satanic Verses. Chapter Two examines Orhan Pamuk’s The Color Red where the representation of Islamic culture and tradition is achieved through the prism of European realism. The discussion of The Color Red shows a way of critiquing the Islamic tradition in a positive way through respectful questioning of prohibitions and finding a way to enhance Islamic culture. The Western fantasy of the Other is turned on the West through the Westernization of Islamic art. Chapter Three is an anthropological analysis of the representation of a Saudi Arabian culture through Western symbols in Yousef Al-Mohaimeed’s Wolves of the Crescent Moon. Western culture is mistranslated by the Arabian adoption of Western symbols, and this is used by the novelist as a form of critique. Some cultural actions reveal corrupt actions that take place in an Islamic society. These cultural actions do not fall under Islamic tradition and indeed violate it. Chapter Four on Michel Tournier’s The Golden Droplet critiques the Western representation of Islamic cultural appropriation which forces and imposes a false image of the Algerian Islamic world during French imperialism. The Islamic representation of the West creates a critique of the colonial gaze. In this section the Islamic form of representation is shown to mediate truth more than Western form of representation.

Source: EThOS

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