The Imaginary and the Documentary: Cultural Studies in Literature, History, and the Arts

Article excerpt

Imagination and the imaginary, on the one hand, and documents and the documentary, on the other, may seem mutually exclusive. However, when we examine works and records closely, we find an intertwining of the imaginative with the real, the imaginary with the documentary. Creative works are not just products of the imagination, standing apart from what takes place in reality; nor are historical accounts possible without the faculty of imaginative construction-determining what was, interpreting it, and selecting the dimensions of its unfolding. Thus, despite the contrast between the imagined and the documented, there is an overlap. No critical approach has analyzed the intimate links between what is imagined and what is documented as scrupulously as the practices of Cultural Studies in its varied branches have done, producing what has come to be called Cultural Criticism.

In the migration of literary theory from one area to another, an adjustment to the new cultural environment takes place, as Edward Said, who contributed enormously to the flourishing of cultural criticism, taught us. The adaptation of theory, however, cannot take place while ignoring its sources or reading them superficially; rather, this transformation must occur through a close reading of the foundational texts and their transposition to the new terrain. Taking this into consideration, Alif was aware of the need for practical criticism that combines the quotidian with imaginative representation, and lived experience with artistic expression, in the light of Cultural Studies. Convinced of the need to present the primary texts and prominent theoreticians of Cultural Studies in depth, especially to the Arabophone reader, we chose to concentrate on two founding fathers of Cultural Studies: Raymond Williams, presenting his trajectory in a comprehensive article, and Stuart Hall, translating two of his seminal texts into Arabic. …