Writers and Nations:The Case of American and Saudi Literatures examines how the concept of the nation in nineteenth century American literature and twentieth century and contemporary Saudi Arabian literature is represented in an array of relevant works. Reading their works gives us a sense of their conceptions of nation as a political and/or a social community. Writers examined in this book often see the nation as a threat to marginalized groups, due to its cultural, religious and political constraints. Writers tend to represent the tension between individuals and communities as a significant key to understanding a particular nation. This tension carries in it a sense of the boundaries of the nation. It is a question of who is part of the nation and who is not. The constraints of a certain nation, be they political or social, include the dominant by excluding the repressed or the marginalized. In other words, by exposing the tension between disenfranchised and dominant groups, writers define, redefine and reform for us the national political and social scenes of a particular nation.
Mohammed Ghazi Alghamdi is assistant professor of Comparative Literature at King Saud University.
Part I: A Hypothesis of Inscribing the Nation
Chapter I: Introduction: Nation and Literature
Chapter II: Contextualizing U.S and Saudi Nations and Literatures
Part II: Reading the Nation
Chapter III: Politics and the Nation
Chapter IV: Religion and the Nation
Chapter V: Women and the Nation
Chapter VI: Race and the Nation
Conclusion: The Evolution of the Nation
Mohammed G. Alghamdi’s Writers and Nations: The Case of American and Saudi Literatures offers a unique and illuminating comparative study of two national literatures during critical formative periods: American literature of the nineteenth century and Saudi Arabian literature of the late twentieth century to the present. Alghamdi’s cross-cultural perspective yields original insights into how literature contributes to nation formation by mediating differences between dominant and marginalized communities. With its astute and surprising comparisons, Alghamdi’s book will be of interest to scholars of both national literatures and should serve to elevate the global profile of the underappreciated Saudi authors it treats.
Books on Saudi literature in English, or for that matter in any language other than Arabic are so rare that the publication of a study that offers the English speaking world an overview of that literature is welcome enough. But when that study is presented from a comparative perspective that illuminates the ties between Saudi and American literature, it assumes an even higher value. I am quite impressed to see Dr. Alghamdi’s book published.
In this groundbreaking study of the development of U.S. and Saudi national literatures, Mohammed Alghamdi argues that writers continually challenge and thus re-inscribe the boundaries of who is included within the privileges of citizenship nations provide and withhold. Comparative analyses of work by Henry David Thoreau and Hamza Shehata, Nathaniel Hawthorne and Abdo Khal, Kate Chopin and Raja Alem, Charles Chesnutt and Alwan Alsuhaymi focus on critiques of political injustice, religious intolerance, gender inequalities, and racial prejudice. Alghamdi shines the light on Saudi writers who are not widely known, even in the Arab world, showing us that a rich and distinctive modern literary tradition is emerging on the Saudi peninsula. His work productively stresses the dynamic potential of nation and the power of literature to effect social change.