Omani Literature as a Tool for Cross-Cultural Communication: a Multi-Disciplinary Project

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Description

It is a national priority of Oman to publicize the rich history and imaginative wealth of Omani literature to an international community, where it is still largely unknown. The project also responds to the Omani government?s efforts to encourage cross-cultural communication between East and West. The main focus of the project is on Omani stories that have been written or translated for an English-speaking audience. It will also examine some stories in Arabic, in order to identify literary works that should urgently be translated. The project has identified the following areas which will be studied: (1) how Omanis and Omani culture are represented in Omani literature, (2) how cross-cultural encounters between Omanis and non-Omanis are described; and (3) how Omani and Arab identity is represented in selected Western fiction. The aims of the project are: (1) to help the government find new means to foster cross-cultural understanding through the use of Omani literature; (2) to examine Omani literature with a view to revealing the imaginative richness of its literature to international and national audiences; (3) to explain why literature is an excellent vehicle for building solidarities across cultural boundaries; (4) to introduce two Omani students to the skills required of a professional academic; (5) to give rise to publications by the PI and the Co-PI in major international journals; (6) to strengthen the English Department?s expertise in cross-cultural studies. By building on the theoretical frameworks of literary and discourse analysis, the project develops the well-established claim that literature is a form of ?social discourse? (Fowler 1982). It also incorporates recent studies of the role of emotion in cultural translation. For example, it has been shown that readers are surprisingly capable of understanding, and indeed of empathizing with, portrayals of different cultural contexts because culturally specific meanings are usually grounded in universal categories (Hogan 2003, 135-137). The project also applies topical arguments from discourse analysis concerning the construction of Arab-Omani identity in literary texts (Al Zidjaly 2012). The project is a multidisciplinary cooperation between two internationally recognized experts: an Australian literary scholar with special expertise in cognitive studies of emotion and an Omani linguist specializing in discourse analysis and the representation of Arab identity in new media. Both PIs have extensive experience in the design and implementation of major research projects and are therefore well qualified to develop a project that responds to national research priorities.

Layman's description

It is a national priority of Oman to publicize the rich history and imaginative wealth of Omani literature to an international community, where it is still largely unknown. The project also responds to the Omani government?s efforts to encourage cross-cultural communication between East and West. The main focus of the project is on Omani stories that have been written or translated for an English-speaking audience. It will also examine some stories in Arabic, in order to identify literary works that should urgently be translated. The project has identified the following areas which will be studied: (1) how Omanis and Omani culture are represented in Omani literature, (2) how cross-cultural encounters between Omanis and non-Omanis are described; and (3) how Omani and Arab identity is represented in selected Western fiction. The aims of the project are: (1) to help the government find new means to foster cross-cultural understanding through the use of Omani literature; (2) to examine Omani literature with a view to revealing the imaginative richness of its literature to international and national audiences; (3) to explain why literature is an excellent vehicle for building solidarities across cultural boundaries; (4) to introduce two Omani students to the skills required of a professional academic; (5) to give rise to publications by the PI and the Co-PI in major international journals; (6) to strengthen the English Department?s expertise in cross-cultural studies. By building on the theoretical frameworks of literary and discourse analysis, the project develops the well-established claim that literature is a form of ?social discourse? (Fowler 1982). It also incorporates recent studies of the role of emotion in cultural translation. For example, it has been shown that readers are surprisingly capable of understanding, and indeed of empathizing with, portrayals of different cultural contexts because culturally specific meanings are usually grounded in universal categories (Hogan 2003, 135-137). The project also applies topical arguments from discourse analysis concerning the construction of Arab-Omani identity in literary texts (Al Zidjaly 2012). The project is a multidisciplinary cooperation between two internationally recognized experts: an Australian literary scholar with special expertise in cognitive studies of emotion and an Omani linguist specializing in discourse analysis and the representation of Arab identity in new media. Both PIs have extensive experience in the design and implementation of major research projects and are therefore well qualified to develop a project that responds to national research priorities.

Key findings

Important starting points for analyzing the international reception of Omani literature will be with the literary magazines Banipal and East and West. (Experts on the topic, such as Dr. Khalid Al Belushi, and established authors, such as Dr. Jokha Al-Harthi, will be consulted personally.) Studies of cross-cultural pedagogy (Micchie 2007, Boler 1999, Jung 2005, McWilliam and Hatcher 2004, Moon 2003) will be an important point of reference, particularly when it comes to applying the arguments to the design of an MA in the Department of English on cross-cultural communication. Studies of cross-cultural research methods (Hines 1993) will also be relevant in practical applications of the multidisciplinary approach, but it should be emphasized that the project is not aiming to conduct empirical research. The most important methodological premises of the project are based on interdisciplinary research from the 1980s, which argued that literature must be described as an instrument of social communication (Fowler 1982). Literary scholars like Alan Palmer (2010) and Patrick Colm Hogan (2003) have revived discussions of what had already been studied as the "intersubjective" dimensions of meaning (Fowler 1982). Similar arguments have been developed by discursive psychologists Davies and Harr? (1990). Earlier studies of intersubjectivity concentrated on the cognitive dimensions of identity, but more recent studies describe the emotions as important factors in the formation of meaning and identity. In particular, linguistic elements which trigger the emotions will be studied, because they do not only stimulate empathy between readers and writers (Oatley 1999, Hogan 2003), but because they also draw attention to the idea of our shared humanity. Please compare Attachments for the bibliographical references.
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