Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

"Reading with My Eyes Closed” Arabic Literature as a Site for Engagement with Alterity: An Ethnographic Study of Arabic Literature Collegiate Classroom
by Oraby, Ebtissam, Ed.D., The George Washington University, 2021, 293; 28258301
Abstract (Summary)

This study investigates the reading and studying of Arabic literature in U.S. collegiate education as a site for engagement with alterity. The purpose is to explore how students in foreign language (FL) literature courses encounter alterity, how they construct the other and reconstruct themselves as they read modern Arabic literary texts, and how the political, historical, geographical, and cultural contexts in which students read shape their reading. Using ethnographic methods, I examine an Arabic literature U.S. collegiate class that I created and taught. Data sources include audio recordings of class discussions, audio recording of out-of-class discussion groups with students, researcher’s memos after classes and out-of-class discussion sessions, in-depth interviews of students, qualitative analysis of students’ written work.

Witnessing the growing movement of literacy-based approaches to foreign language education, I use theories of alterity as a framework to illuminate understanding of literacy in foreign language contexts and possibly engender an other-oriented literacy. Notions of alterity that constitutes my theoretical framework are synthesized through analyses of Levinas’s ethics of alterity and post-colonial conceptualization of alterity, supporting my investigation of the consumption of Arabic literature in the Western Academy (Huggan, 2002). The post-colonial lens enables me to interpret the construction of the self and the other through the act of reading within its specific historical, cultural and political contexts (Drabinski, 2011). Building on the works of scholars using Levinas’s ethics to theorize an ethical reading (Attridge, 2004a; Cohen, 2004; Davis, 2010; Tarc, 2015), my theoretical framework envisions an ethical textual engagement with the literary work.

Participants of the study encountered different aspects of alterity when reading and studying Arabic literary works, and each aspect posed a different challenge to them. Through the encounter with the alterity of the literary works, the Arabic language and their peers, participants were challenged to rethink their habitual modes of thinking, (Attridge, 2004a), to be open to different interpretation and be uncertain about their own, to embrace their differences (Biesta, 2004), to rely on and be responsible for each other, and learn from each other (Todd, 2003) and to produce knowledge in conversation with an other (Katz, 2013). In their reading, participants encountered cultural distance with the literary works (Attridge, 2011) both close and far and made efforts to account for it. The study demonstrates how alterity as a framework in FL literature class can create opportunities for students to ethically respond to literary works and to each other and engage in learning as a transformative experience of encountering otherness.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Ali, Arshad I., Casemore, Brian
Commitee: Attridge, Derek, Tarc, Aparna Mishra
School: The George Washington University
Department: Curriculum & Instruction
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-A 82/6(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Foreign language education, Middle Eastern literature, Ethics, Higher education
Keywords: Arabic literature, Classroom ethnography, Creative reading, Ethics of alterity, Foreign language literature, Higher education
Publication Number: 28258301
ISBN: 9798698579250
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