Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The West as Fiction in First-Generation Arab Immigrant Literature investigates the resemblance between the Arab immigrant experience, in first-generation Arab immigrant literature, and the experience of fiction reading. This dissertation analyzes Tayeb Salih’s Season of Migration to the North (1966), Waguih Ghali’s Beer in the Snooker Club (1964), Walid Al Hajjar’s trilogy The Search for the Self (1973, 1979, and 1984), Leila Aboulela’s The Translator (1999), Alaa Al Aswany’s Chicago: A Novel (2007), and Rabih Alameddine’s I, the Divine: A Novel in First Chapters (2001). Drawing from genre, postcolonial, and diasporic studies, this project argues that the West, for first-generation Arab immigrants, shares many of the features of fiction: its emotional distance, authority, the privacy of its experience, the space it allows for role playing, and its allowance or requirement of a temporary reinvention of the self. Such characteristics, the project shows, illuminate our understanding of significant issues such the integration of Arab immigrants into Western countries, their sense of home and belonging, as well as the concept of the graspability or comprehension of Western cultures by Arab immigrants.First-generation Arab immigrants who find the prolonged fictional experience of the West painful respond to the agony of this experience through violence or through the establishment of a native, home religion, Islam, in the receiving Western countries. Arab immigrants who eventually reject the fiction of the West, turn it into a reality through the relative reversal of the previously mentioned characteristics of fiction reading. In addition, this study demonstrates that the transnational movement of Arab immigrants creates new types of hyphenation: one that is based on the immigrants’ desire to maintain access to both fiction and reality and a hybridity based on an attachment to two different realities. These hyphenated identities destabilize Arab immigrants’ sense of home and even make home disappear. To cope with such a loss, Arab immigrants keep moving between the country of origin and that of immigration or end their own lives.



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Committee Chair

Berman, Jacob



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