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Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950$
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Marwa Elshakry

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780226001302

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226001449.001.0001

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Darwin in Translation

Darwin in Translation

(p.261) Seven Darwin in Translation
Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950

Marwa Elshakry

University of Chicago Press

Despite the extensive discussion of Darwin in the Arabic press since at least the early 1870s, his Origin of Species was not translated until well into the twentieth century. This chapter examines the works of Isma‘il Mazhar, one of the last of the major Arab evolutionists and science popularizers. It focuses on his work on translation and his efforts at language reform in general, for Mazhar was an avid translator, and he spent a considerable amount of time deliberating on the literary, stylistic and conceptual implications of translation. (Later he would also go on to participate in one of Egypt’s first Arabic Language Academies, where he worked specifically on the problem of modern scientific translation.) In particular, the chapter considers his readings of Darwin in the face of growing suspicions of evolution’s entrenched materialism. In the 1920s and 1930s, Mazhar campaigned tirelessly against this perspective, and his own stance was as neo-positivist as it was transcendentalist. Nevertheless, the very subject of his work was quickly losing favour with Arabic readers, and his ideas on evolution and social progress, alongside his views on religion, language and politics, gained him few followers.

Keywords:   Translation, Positivism, Transcendentalism, Arab Golden Age, Warfare of science and theology, Easternism, Arabic Academy of Language, Language reform

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