Ecstatic feedback : toward an ethics of audition in the contemporary literary arts of the Mediterranean
MetadataShow full item record
Ecstatic Feedback explores narrative and thematic engagements with the concept of “audition” in works from Israel, Palestine, Lebanon, and Morocco. My use of the term audition encompasses the act of listening, the trials and tribulations of hearing, and the performative aspects of lending an ear. The locale of Ecstatic Feedback is the contemporary Mediterranean, a designation that reflects both the geographical and linguistic orientation of the works discussed and the emergent disciplinary interest in Mediterranean Studies. The regional specificity of this project is framed by my discussion of ṭarab, a musical phenomenon akin to ecstasy. I argue that ṭarab, as a musical form with a culturally-specific contextual base and a sui generis communicative mode capable of producing context, points to an acoustic geography that predates current sociopolitical mappings of the Mediterranean. In its literary and cinematic iterations, ṭarab presents a challenge to compartmentalized geopolitical and cultural visions of a Mediterranean structured around divisions such as secular/sacred, premodern/modern, or Mashriq/Maghreb. The works discussed in Ecstatic Feedback use ṭarab as a narrative structure, casting it at the same time as a way of rethinking the historical traumas of the twentieth and twenty-first century Mediterranean. Emile Habibi’s vignettes The Sextet of the Six Days (1968); Hoda Barakat’s novel Disciples of Passion (1993) and her series of essays The Stranger’s Letters (2004); Eran Kolirin’s film The Band’s Visit (2007); and Elia Suleiman’s film The Time That Remains (2009) all make explicit references to the world of ṭarab and its practitioners. Edmond El Maleh’s A Thousand Years, One Day (1986) situates ṭarab more abstractly, as a concept with tremendous performative and communicative potential in both its popular and mystical iterations. With a focus on Arab Jews, Palestinian citizens of Israel, and exiles of the Lebanese Civil War, my project attends to the processes that underwrite a literary and cinematic intervention into the regional soundscape, with its attendant silences and elisions. By foregrounding instances of ṭarab and exploring the intersubjectivity inherent in the dynamic between muṭrib (a performer who elicits ṭarab) and listener, these diverse texts combine to highlight a line of cultural-regional poetics based on audition.