Naturalistic Extremes in Al Aswaany’s The Yacoubian Building

Hussein H. Zeidanin, Asmaa M. Al Zuraigat


Emile Zola and other naturalistic novelists such as Stephen Crane, Jack London, Edith Wharton, Frank Norris, John Steinbeck and Richard Wright perceive naturalism as an anti-romantic philosophy dispensing with emotions, sentiments and imagination and parodying the romantic paradigm for idealizing the past and avoiding realities. They view literature as experimental and investigational as science and the novelist as scientist who objectively and methodologically observes and tests the actions and reactions of representative fictional characters under controlled conditions.  On the contrary, the writings of the opponents of naturalism like those of A. Plantinga (2010), H. Putnam (2000), J. Kim (2008), J. Spencer (2010), R. Bush (2003), and R. Gerhardt (2010) criticize naturalistic literature for focusing on the negative side instead of the bright side of life, attaching violence and threatening behaviors to the low class people, and representing a pessimistic view of life and human progress. Our paper seeks to recapitulate the epistemological premises of naturalism and the views of its proponents and opponents who debate over the materialism, atheism and sensationism of naturalism. The paper further analyzes the predominant correlation between environment and man, fate and man and biology and man from the perspective of naturalists. The study finds out that the actions and reactions of the fictional characters of Busayna el Sayed and Zaki el Dessouki in Al Aswany’s The Yacoubian Building (2003) are not self-determined; rather, they are predetermined by the triad of environment, fate and biology. In addition, the study observes that the absence of hope pervading the characters’ lives gives rise to their pessimistic worldviews and stoic behaviors. The study’s analysis and findings are based on Al Aswany’s text because it, on one hand, epitomizes the naturalistic poetics of classism, fatalism and predeterminism in the Egyptian society. On the other hand, that it was published during the first decade of the twentieth century invalidates the assumption that naturalism is no longer revisited by contemporary Arab writers. 



The Yacoubian Building, Naturalism, Determinism, Fatalism, Escapism

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