Alyn Desmond Hine, "Russian literature in the works of Mikhail Naimy", SOAS, University of London, 2011.
This thesis looks at the dialogue between the twentieth-century Lebanese writer, Mikhail Naimy, and Russian literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The term ‘dialogue’ is based on Bakhtin’s idea of a reciprocal and mutually interacting relationship between literary texts, which therefore rejects the notion of influence based on a perceived hierarchy of ‘national literatures.’ It examines the literary texts of a writer who was educated by the Russian organisation, the Imperial Orthodox Palestine Society, in schools in Baskinta, Nazareth and Poltava. At the Poltava Seminary, Naimy became so immersed in the Russian language and culture that his teachers believed him to be as versed in Russian literature as any of his Slavic contemporaries. The thesis examines how Naimy’s love and interpretation of Russian literature was central to the creative trajectory he explored in Arabic literature in both New York and Lebanon, becoming an accomplished exponent of the art of the short story and critical essay, before he began to explore the possibilities of the novel and the drama. We analyse four key areas of Naimy’s writing, spirituality, politics, modes of expression and criticism, in order to ascertain how the dialogue with Russian literature manifested itself. By adopting an area-based study to the varied literary texts, we can consider how Naimy’s reading of Russian literature worked in correspondence with his own investigations into the tenets of theosophy, his socialist principles based on childhood experiences, the embracing of the short story and literary journal by the Syro-American literary circle in New York, and his style of criticism that was centred on an emotional response to literature rather than a textual analysis. The thesis also studies how Naimy’s relationship with Russian literature in these areas changed over the course of his long literary career.