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Nizar Qabbani: The Poet and The Critic

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Organizer: Hicham Kharroub

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This seminar attempts to start a book project on the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani (1923-1998), one of most prominent Arab literary figures of the 20th Century. It proposes to be a comprehensive book on the poet in the sense that it attempts to investigate as much aspects as possible of his life and works.

Papers on Qabbani across the genres, themes, and periods are all welcomed. Comparative approaches are encouraged. The hypothesis of this seminar is that the majority of the possible paper topics could be organized under four major categories: the literary, the social, the political, and the personal. The logic of this hypothesis is that these four are the major directions for poetry, and criticism, if not all writing. The first three direct poetry outward while the fourth directs it inward; into the self.

This seminar, therefore, welcomes papers that show Qabbani’s world view in a multitude of literary, social, and political affairs that work themselves into poetry, just as they work themselves into the poet’s experience of the world. In other words, what are the poet’s views on major issues and causes such as freedom, love, religion, democracy, nationalism and other literary, social, and political matters? Was he a Marxist who talked freely about the proletariat and revolution? Or was he a liberal? Did he believe in realism? Was he influenced by surrealism, and did he believe in the necessity of blocking the conscious mind so that the unconscious mind can express itself unburdened? In addition to questions about the poet’s personality such as: what was his favorite subject? Was it sociology, history, or philosophy? Who was his favorite writer? Was he an adamant reader of stories and novels, or poetry, or scientific articles? And in case of poetry, did he prefer Mayakovski to T.S. Eliot? Maybe he read neither but likes Saint-John Perse or Pablo Neruda, or maybe Nazim Hikmet, instead.

These are few questions that help outline the general framework of the seminar and guide potential paper contributions on Qabbani’s persona as a poet and a critic.

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