History as a predicament vs. history as a venue: a comparative study of Robert Coover's The public burning and 'Abdul Khaaliq al-Rikaabi's Saabi' Ayaam al-Khalq
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[ACCESS RESTRICTED TO THE UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI AT AUTHOR'S REQUEST.] In this comparative study, I examine the two novelists' approach to history, against the background of their respective cultures' understanding of history and historiography. My examination is informed by the following argument: for Coover and fellow American novelists, history as such is a predicament that constantly threatens to impose closure on the narrative histories of their fiction; for al-Rikaabi and fellow Iraqi novelists, history is a venue for exploration that goes beyond the chronological markers of eras and dynasties to retrieve narrative histories, which existed side by side with the narratives of official historiography. In my decision to study the two novels I am motivated by a larger picture of the United States' imperialistic quest and hegemony toward Iraq in 2003 and its consequences. The underlying sense of imminent danger to the former country, crystallized by 9/11 and sustained by the understanding that there is a conspiracy against the American way of life, pre-dates the Bush administration's 2003 invasion. Its roots are in the Cold War, which is at the heart of Coover's concerns in The public burning and, in a way, foregrounds the U.S. future imperialism including its 1991 Gulf War on Kuwait and destruction of the Iraqi state and infrastructure, economic sanctions from 1990 to 2003, and the following invasion and occupation of Iraq.
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