Using Life and abusing life in the trial of Ahmed Naji
Text World Theory, Adab and the ethics of reading
Keywords:Adab, Ahmed Naji, narrative ethics, Text World Theory
This article undertakes a cognitive stylistic investigation of the trial of Egyptian writer Ahmed Naji, who was prosecuted - and subsequently imprisoned - for 'disturbing public morals' by depicting sexual content in his novel Istikhdam al-Hayat [Using Life] (2014). The article presents a schematic model of the narrative roles, across narrative levels and text-world ontologies, mind-modelled by readers in literary experiences. This model forms the foundation of the analysis which is consequently able to map the interrelationships between the roles on enunciation and reception and to account for the complex array of ethical positions - relative to each narrative role - taken up by readers. The article offers a nuanced account of the ethics of reading which, by pioneering the application of stylistics to explore an Arabic cultural context, can also capture cultural difference. Ultimately, through situated analysis, this article uncovers the ideological forces involved in Ahmed Naji's trial and the disciminatory practices therein.
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