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May 15, 2012

Arab Novelist Jurji Zaydan Subject of June 5 Symposium

A symposium titled "Jurji Zaydan: His Contribution to Modern Arab Thought and Literature" will bring together scholars from the Arab world, Europe and North America to present papers and discuss the life and work of the noted Arab novelist, journalist and publisher. The conference will be held at the Library of Congress from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Tuesday, June 5, 2012 in Room LJ-119 in the Thomas Jefferson Building, located at 10 First Street S.E., Washington, D.C.

The event, which is free and open to the public, is sponsored by the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division, the John W. Kluge Center in the Library of Congress and the Zaidan Foundation. Tickets are not required.

Jurji Zaydan was born in Beirut, Lebanon on Dec. 14, 1861, into a Greek Orthodox family. A prolific writer, Zaydan was the author of 22 historical novels covering the entirety of Arab/Islamic history. Many of his works focused on the Arab Awakening, a cultural renaissance that began in the late 19th and early 20th century in Egypt, later moving to Ottoman-ruled Arabic-speaking regions including Lebanon, Syria and others. It is often regarded as a period of intellectual modernization and reform.

Zaydan also founded the journal al-Hilal, which is still published today. His writings have been translated from Arabic into Persian, Turkish and Urdu as well as French and German. Housed in the Library’s collection, some of these works will be on display in Room LJ-113 during the symposium. Selected works by Zaydan that have recently been translated into English by leading scholars can be ordered at the symposium. (A limited number may be available for purchase at the event).

Zaydan died in Cairo on July 21, 1914, at the age of 53. During the last two decades of his life, he developed a reputation as one of the most influential thinkers and writers in the Arab world.

The symposium will feature the following speakers and topics:

Panel I

Jens Hanssen, University of Toronto, the historical roots of Zaydan’s work
Marwa El Shakry, Columbia University, Zaydan’s views on Arab history and language
Anne-Laure Dupont, the impact of European orientalism on Zaydan

Panel II

Roger Allen, University of Pennsylvania, Zaydan’s impact on genre development in Arabic literature
Zainab Ben Lagha, the image and role of women in Zaydan’s novels
William Granara, Harvard University, the role of history in Zaydan’s novels

Panel III

Michael Cooperson, University of California/Los Angeles, Zaydan and modern history
Thomas Philipp, Erlangen University, Germany, Zaydan and the Young Turk Revolution
George Zaidan, founder of The Zaidan Foundation (zaidanfoundation.org(external link)) will discuss his grandfather’s personal qualities and values.

Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs, publications and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov.

Through a generous endowment from John W. Kluge, the Library of Congress established the Kluge Center in 2000 to bring together the world’s best thinkers to stimulate and energize one another, to distill wisdom from the Library’s rich resources and to interact with policymakers in Washington. For further information on the Kluge Center, visit www.loc.gov/kluge/.

The African and Middle Eastern Division was established in 1978 as part of a reorganization that combined the Near East Section, the African Section and the Hebraic Section. Together they cover some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. For more information on the division and its holdings, visit the African and Middle Eastern Division at www.loc.gov/rr/amed.

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PR 12-102
05/15/12
ISSN 0731-3527

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