This chapter traces the genealogy of the Arabic theory of novel to its English sources, which it locates in the context of twentieth-century European theories of the novel. It first considers how the novel emerged as the premier genre of modern Arabic literature, then discusses its modernity as well as its continuity with the narrative genres of classical and post-classical Arabic. It examines the dominant account of the “rise” of the Arabic novel by focusing on ‘Abd al-Muḥsin Ṭāha Badr’s 1963 study Taṭawwur al-riwāya al-‘arabiyya al-ḥadītha fī Miṣr (1870–1938) (The Development of the Modern Arabic Novel in Egypt, 1870–1938). It also explores the paradigms of rupture and continuity that can be identified with restrictive and inclusive theories of the novel, respectively. Finally, the chapter critiques what it describes as a flawed historiography and proposes an alternative theory of the Arabic novel.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Oxford Handbook of Arab Novelistic Traditions
EditorsWaïl S Hassan
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780199349791
StatePublished - 2017


  • Arab
  • Egypt
  • ‘Abd al-Muḥsin Ṭ āha Badr
  • Arabic novel
  • narrative genres
  • modernity
  • Arabic literature


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