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Introduction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  02 June 2023

Rana Issa
Affiliation:
American University of Beirut
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Summary

This book examines the history of modern Arabic Bible’s translation as one of the key discursive spaces that shaped our inquiries into the problem of modernity. As this book argues, the Bible provides an ideal example for the study of translation temporally. Through a comparison of Western missionary protagonists, and the local translators Butrus al-Bustani (1819–83) and Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq (1804–87), I explore translation through its temporal dimensions in order to illuminate the earliest beginnings of some of the ideas about the past that we carry today. I claim that translation’s temporalities entangle the Bible with modernity and set standards for how to write, transfer, publish and read books. I further propose that translation’s temporalities are not just located in Walter’s Benjamin’s definition of translation as the ‘afterlife’ of a particular text, but also include larger temporal processes that are mediated in how the Bible came to be perceived as a quintessentially modern text in the nineteenth century. By turning to the Bible to explore the changes in the perception of Arabic language and literature in modernity, I suggest that a literary history from a translational perspective cannot be subordinated to the linguistic – as is often proposed in translation studies and its current deployments of the concept of ‘untranslatability’. I turn to conceptual history and its temporal focus and borrow the theory of ‘multiple temporalities’ into translation studies in order to suggest that the discourse of modernity is a linguistic response to, and intervention into, the transformations in the political economy of globalisation that can be exemplified in many objects, including the Bible and its transformation into an exchange commodity. In the Modern Arabic Bible, I argue that translation performed a synchronistic labour and that this labour resulted in identifying these practices with modernity. Through this book, I aim to pursue this claim about modernity’s synchronising work towards the entanglements that reveal the negotiation of a common modernity that is nevertheless incommensurable with itself, with only relative standards of measurement.

The task of studying translation thus becomes the key to unlocking how ideologies of language and literature responded to as well as shaped the historical context. In this sense, I select details that reveal how the Bible was produced as an exchange commodity.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Modern Arabic Bible
Translation, Dissemination and Literary Impact
, pp. 1 - 40
Publisher: Edinburgh University Press
Print publication year: 2023

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  • Introduction
  • Rana Issa, American University of Beirut
  • Book: The Modern Arabic Bible
  • Online publication: 02 June 2023
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  • Introduction
  • Rana Issa, American University of Beirut
  • Book: The Modern Arabic Bible
  • Online publication: 02 June 2023
Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

  • Introduction
  • Rana Issa, American University of Beirut
  • Book: The Modern Arabic Bible
  • Online publication: 02 June 2023
Available formats
×