August 2004, Vol. 5 No. 5

Highlight of the month:

Fifteen AUB Professors Awarded 2004-05 Hewlett Junior Faculty Research Grants
Workshop on Maternity Mortality
The Sociology of the Lebanese Civil War Novel


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Articles included:

AUB is Now Accredited!
Pathology and Laboratory Medicine Receives Accreditation from the College of American Pathologists
38th Middle East Medical Assembly
Workshop on Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Technologies in the Region
New Faculty Profile: Hibah O. Osman
Fifteen AUB Professors Awarded 2004-05 Hewlett Junior Faculty Research Grants
Flagship Course Targets Health Sector Reform in Iraq
Research on Population and Health
British Council Program at FEA: Creative Lebanon
Inverse Migration:  Two Lives in Exile
HERU HIV/AIDS Prevention Youth Programs
Workshop on Maternity Mortality
Karla Mallette Lectures: “Translations, Counterfeits, and Modern Mediterranean Literature”
Professor Moueen Salameh Presents Three Papers at Registrar Conferences
CBR Hosts Mediterranean Voices Project in Beirut
John Alterman Looks at Iraq: “In many ways, the war ...  was an answer in search of a question”
Seventh Career Orientation and Annual Job Fair Includes 70 Companies
James Radulski Named Head of Human Resources

Governor of New South Wales Visits Campus
Andre Nahas Named IPO Director
Antoine Chahine New Director of Housing
OPEC Aims for Cleaner Oil
Astronomy in the Infrared
Diana Khabbaz: E-Learning Project Manager
Twenty Four Schools Participate in the Eleventh Annual Science, Math, and Technology Fair
Department of Education Faculty News
Faculty Promotion
The Sociology of the Lebanese Civil War Novel
Richard Rorty at AUB: Is There a Conflict Between Religion and Science?
In Memoriam Dr. Yusuf Abdallah Sayigh
Alumni Conference
Medical Equipment Course
Visitors’ Bureau Celebrates its Fifth Anniversary 

From left: Dr. Samir Khalaf and Dr. Maher Jarrar.

The Anis K. Makdisi Program in Literature crowned an active year of more than a dozen lectures with a three-day conference entitled “The Sociology of the Lebanese Civil War Novel,” which was held May 14-16 in West Hall Auditorium B.

Of interest on the second day were the opinions expressed by some participants about the choice of title and the actual purpose of the conference. One suggested that “The Sociology of the Lebanese War As Interpreted in the Novel” would have been a more appropriate title.  As for the purpose of the conference, more than one participant saw it as an attempt to combat the “collective amnesia” of the Lebanese people regarding the causes and consequences of the 15-year conflict.  

In his keynote address, entitled “Spaces of the Lebanese Civil War,” Professor Samir Khalaf of the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences and director of the Center for Behavioral Research, pinpointed what he defined as the three main areas of  demographic change engendered by the war experience: first, the rearrangement of space in Lebanon after the war; second, the “geography of fear” and how it determined the distribution of groups in Beirut and redefined social geography; and finally, the constant “cosmopolitan” character of the Bourj area in Beirut before and after the war.

The lectures presented during the five sessions of the conference covered a wide range of topics. The themes of identity, nationality, home, exile, women, sexuality, psychology, and politics, for example, emerged through the exploration of such novels as Hoda Barakat’s Stone of Laughter, Ghada Samman’s Beirut 75 and Beirut Nightmares, Hanan Al-Shaykh’s Story of Zahra and Beirut Blues, Rachid Al-Da‘if’s Dear Mr. Kawabat, Passage to Dusk, and This Side of Innocence, and several of the war novels of Elias Khoury, who also participated as a conference speaker.

The first and second sessions, which were moderated respectively by AUB’s Professor Assaad Khairallah and the editor-in-chief of Al Tariq, Muhammad Dakroub, consisted of four lectures, beginning with “The Referentiality of the Lebanese Civil War Novel,” by Yumna El-Eid, professor of literature at the Lebanese University. According to El-Eid, the fact that a novel about the Lebanese civil war was written during the war creates a special relationship between the writer and his or her surroundings. Such a novel differs from a novel about the war that was written in its aftermath. In the latter case there exists no direct relationship between the writer and the environment; rather, the content of the novel is derived from the memories of the writer.

Next, in “Fragments, Borders, and Identities in the Lebanese Civil War Novel,” Sabri Hafez, professor of literature at the London School of Oriental and African Studies presented  the characteristics of the civil war novel noting the new literary styles that reflected chaos and absurdity, as well as the mood of foreboding found in the pre-war novels of Yusuf Awwad and Emilie Nasrallah, both of whom anticipated the civil war in their works.  

Focusing on the sociology of the Arabic novel, Boutros Hallaq, professor of literature at Paris 1 University, discussed the presence of “realistic” consciousness in the Arabic novel. On her part, Rafif Rida-Sidawi, professor of the sociology of literature at the Lebanese University, reviewed the historical evolution of the Lebanese civil war novel from the 1950s up to 1995. According to her, “the novel’s content in the 1950s may be regarded as a preparatory prelude to the civil war novel”; the basic questions later tackled in the civil war novel seemed to have reached a formative stage by 1975; and the years between 1975 and 1995 witnessed the actual production of the Lebanese civil war novel.

In the third session, moderator Mona Amyouni of AUB’s Civilization Sequence Program introduced Professor Syrine Hout of AUB’s English Department, whose lecture, “Memory, Home, and Exile in Contemporary Anglophone Lebanese Fiction,” explored Rabih Alameddine’s The Perv: Stories (1999) and Nada Jarrar’s Somewhere, Home (2003). In summarizing the differences in perceptions with regard to abandoning home in wartime, Hout said: “For Alameddine, homesickness is more of a ‘sickness of home,’ and ‘being at home’ is not about belonging to a piece of land, but about having a peace of mind. . .” In contrast, “For Jarrar, ‘home’ is a location, usually a house, associated with actual or substitute family members, thus serving as a storehouse of childhood memories from which selfhood is derived.” 

George Dorlian, professor of literature at the University of Balamand, next spoke in Arabic on the role of Beirut in the Lebanese civil war novel, and indicated that Beirut in particular possesses a certain space in the “memory” of the Lebanese civil war.

Sabah Ghandour, also a professor of literature at the University of Balamand, opened the fourth session with her lecture entitled, “The Discourse of Beirut in Elias Khoury’s Novels.” Noting the role of Edward Said in introducing New York to the novelist, Ghandour suggested that for Khoury, it is individuals who confer identify on a place or city. As Khoury maintains, “All my works take place in one specific city, Beirut.” Going to the depths of “this city that has no end,” Khoury underscored the need for the novelist to write of a “definite time and place.” Ghandour believes that Khoury’s novels may be read as a history of Beirut.

Nisrine Jaafar, an AUB graduate currently enrolled in McGill University but about to continue her studies at Oxford University, presented a paper, “Weaving Women, Fighting Men:  Unmaking the Erotic in Hoda Barakat’s Hajar ad-Dahik” (The Stone of Laughter). Without wishing to take “an ideological stance on eroticism,” Jaafar approached the subject through the collective lenses of Mikhail Bakhtin, George Bataille, and Octavio Paz, to emphasize the therapeutic role of eroticism and love (“two faces of the same coin”), which, according to her, can strengthen the individual’s struggle against the “burdening realm of daily life.” But the hero fails, for he “lives war to its maximum” in a world where values have “capsized in favor of a new world order void of eroticism and the host of symbolic meanings it bears.”

The final session on Sunday morning was highlighted by the Elias Khoury lecture, “Sociology and the Novelist,” as well as by what may be considered an innovation in the context of the primarily literary-oriented conference – Pascale Feghali’s humorous and amusing study of the imaginary life (imagined by herself and her subject) of an elderly frequenter of the municipal Sanayeh Garden.

Elias Khoury, who is also well known as a literary critic, centered his talk on the responsibility of the novelist in writing about the war. He pointed out that the Lebanese civil war novel was born with the birth of the war itself and, as such, it evolved into a unique social and literary phenomenon. Sociological studies were never able to explain what caused the war, he said, adding that since the Lebanese civil war novel itself was a product of the war, it inevitably has become a historical source and novelists writing about the Lebanese civil war should be aware of their responsibility as historians.


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