Academic journal article Antipodes

The Comic Disruption of Stereotypes in Loubna Haikal's Seducing Mr. Maclean

Academic journal article Antipodes

The Comic Disruption of Stereotypes in Loubna Haikal's Seducing Mr. Maclean

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

IN THE LAST DECADE AN ENORIMOUS CORPUS OF ANGLOPHONE Lebanese Exilic literature has emerged. These works, written by Lebanese writers, voice the immigrant condition in English. Jad El Hage, Rabih Alameddine, and Tony Hanania are some of these famous writers. However, Australia has not had a very big share of Lebanese writers over the past century, and there is more or less a vacuum despite the enormous number of Lebanese living there. According to the Australian Bureau of Statistics (2006), Australia has 181,751 people of Lebanese ancestry and 74,848 Lebanese by birth. Examples of some Australian Lebanese writers are David Malouf, Ghassan Hage, Abbas Al-Zein, Nada Awar Jarrar and Loubna Haikal. This paper examines Loubna Haikal's novel Seducing Mr. Maclean. Haikal migrated to Australia when she was a teenager and her novel is about her migrant experience from a Lebanese perspective using a "Lebanese accent" and style. El-Maleh contends that "[m]ost of the Arab-Australians currently writing ([. . .] except for Malouf) were not born on Australian soil, and may thus write from an expatriate perspective rather than from the stance of fully integrated citizenship" (El-Maleh 45). Consequently, "Seducing Mr. Maclean is therefore important, not only for addressing this cultural vacuum by pulling together the richer aspects of Lebanese culture and putting them into the context of the difficulties of being a young migrant, but for turning the migrant experience into art" (Ball 2). This novel is set in the 1980s and is about a Lebanese family's experiences of living in Australia. Nairn's family decides to immigrate to Australia for two reasons: war and his lost business. He moves to Melbourne with his wife, Hayat, and eight children. They run away from war thinking that they will find a peaceful life in Australia; however, they learn that they are unwelcomed by Australians and they face problems, among which is racism. Loubna Haikal is against misrepresentation of Arabs in all media, especially literature. "She does not believe in the ghetto-isation of literature but does object to non-Arabs writing simplistically about Arabic culture" (Sharing a Landscape 3). Seducing Mr. Maclean is a satire because it utilizes humor to expose human vices and follies. This essay argues that although Haikal draws on oriental stereotypes of Arabs, the purpose of her satire is not merely to make the readers laugh at stereotypes, but to make them identify their own vices and change them. She does that by presenting stereotyped caricatures of both Lebanese-Australians and Anglo-Australians.

One of the dominant oriental stereotypes employed in this novel is that of the "postcolonial exotic." According to Huggan, "exoticism describes [. . .] a particular mode of aesthetic perception-one which renders people, objects and places strange even as it domesticates them, and which effectively manufactures otherness even as it claims to surrender to its immanent mystery" (Huggan 13). In this novel, the Lebanese-Australians are presented in this fashion as "the other" and as exotic: strange, mystical, weird, magical, uneducated, and barbaric. To illustrate, in Seducing Mr. Machan, women are viewed by Prof Maclean and usually by Anglo-Australians as "exotic" seducers of men, as "femme fatales." The narrator represents these exotic Arab women:"After all that I had explained to him, about Lebanon and our French connection, distancing myself from anything native, he still called me exotic" (46). Initially, her grades do not qualify her for medical school, but after flirting with the Professor she eventually manages to do so. The Professor gives her private lessons and sexually molests her. She tries to copy femme fatale heroines in both Egyptian and Western films. She dresses up for him in a "short, above-the-knee, pleated green-and-white stripy skirt" ( 16) and all color-coordinated. She speaks English with a French accent to seduce him: "I know zat" (21). …

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