December 11, 2023

Jeddah Book Fair 2023: The Aesthetics of Literary Criticism

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The cultural program accompanying the Jeddah Book Fair 2023, orchestrated by the Authority for Literature, Publishing, and Translation, commenced on Thursday evening with a thought-provoking panel discussion titled ‘The Aesthetics of Literary Criticism.’ Dr. Sameera Al-Zahrani and Dr. Mohamed El-Shahat shared insights in this engaging session moderated by Dr. Majed Al-Zahrani. Dr. Majed set the tone by expressing gratitude to the organizing authority for its unwavering commitment to enriching cultural and literary landscapes in the Kingdom. Highlighting their dedication to hosting book fairs that feature intellectually stimulating cultural programs. He also provided a brief overview of the esteemed profiles of Dr. Sameera and Dr. El-Shahat.

Initiating the discourse, Dr. Majed conveyed, “Beauty, that evocative singular essence that resonates with the soul, leaves lips stumbling and brows furrowed, casting its brilliance on the heads of perplexed creators. The perception of beauty is an inherent facet of human essence that endures, irrespective of the dominance of contemporary consumerism.”

Expanding on this theme, he emphasized, “One who lacks an appreciation for beauty fails to discern anything beautiful in existence. The sense of beauty is a form of comforting astonishment. Awakening our awareness to the obvious and revitalizing dormant habits in the corridors of familiarity. Rejuvenating them with a tender, early childhood innocence. Beauty serves as the compass of the soul.”

Dr. Mohamed El-Shahat delved into the symposium’s exploration, stating, “This discussion delves into the aesthetics of literary criticism from two perspectives: first, the methodologies and theories of criticism that focus on the aesthetic and poetic aspects of texts, and second, the emphasis on the philosophical ideas that aesthetic criticism draws from the science of beauty. Critics have built upon these ideas in approaching literary phenomena and texts.”

Illustrating the tools and diverse philosophical references of literary critics. Dr. El-Shahat underscored the necessity for Arab critics to stay abreast of modern shifts in theories, methodologies, and contemporary approaches—tools that can be harnessed and employed in interpreting our Arabic creative texts.

Dr. Sameera Al-Zahrani, reflecting on the early engagement with the aesthetics of criticism among Arabs. Mentioned the initial attempt in 1953 by Rose Gharib. Despite its size and certain flaws, it indicated a clear progression in aesthetic awareness and its nascent maturity among Arabs. Additionally, Dr. Sameera asserted that the aesthetic viewpoint was not fully developed among the Greeks, as it limited to the concepts of right and wrong.

Al-Zahrani continued, stating, “Plato believes that the beauty in artistic work is less than what exists in nature. Things are not beautiful absolutely; they are beautiful when in their proper place and ugly when in an inappropriate place. Thus, beauty is a relative matter without reaching the ideal beauty or perfect beauty.”

Furthermore, she assured that engagement with criticism cannot be confined to a specific category. Recognizing readers as critics whose opinions are valuable. In her words, “The reader is necessarily a critic, and criticism is not limited to trained critics, even if they possess the tools for objective criticism, away from subjectivity and impressionistic or naïve criticism.”

Following the presentations, the symposium witnessed several interventions from the audience. Dr. Mu’jab Al-Adwani commended the participants for their valuable insights, and Ibrahim Al-Sassi posed several questions to Dr. Sameera Al-Zahrani.

Source: Okaz

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