Through an examination of Lebanese literary narratives and musical theater, Constructing Lebanon offers a vehicle for understanding Lebanon's cultural and political evolution as a nation over the last century. It redresses the lack of scholarship on the symbiotic relationship between nation and culture, especially in Arab studies, by presenting both descriptive and prescriptive models of how a nation can be "read" through literary productions. Elise Salem provides valuable close readings of many Lebanese literary texts written in Arabic, including lesser-known fiction, popular culture narratives, and plays written and produced during the Lebanese civil war and postwar period. Using this framework, Salem examines the construction of nationalist mythology in Lebanon and illustrates how nationalist and regional politics influence cultural productions. Rereading Gibran Khalil Gibran, for example, with the idea of nation in mind reveals that his works are replete with formative ideas on Lebanese identity.
Besides analyzing an extensive body of literature from the 20th century, Salem also draws from cultural productions, especially the popular Rahbani and Fayruz musicals that proved to be so central to Lebanese consciousness. This pioneering attempt to propel the study of Lebanese nationalism beyond the confines of ideology and political parties sharpens our understanding of this evolving nation, from its early inception and development to its demise and current reconstruction.
Publisher: University Press of Florida