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Loving YusufConceptual Travels from Present to Past$
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Mieke Bal

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780226035864

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: March 2013

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226035888.001.0001

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Loving Yusuf
University of Chicago Press

The flaws in any attempt to characterize Islam, or the reading of the Qur'an, that the author has encountered make it difficult for her to write this chapter. These flaws—the assumption of a monolithic Islam, an Orientalist conception of that religion, the selective use of passages, the simplification or absence of class as an analytical category, and, as a result, a simplified and bourgeois notion of feminism—can't simply be passed over. How then to approach the Qur'an's story of Yusuf and Mut from a position of outsidership and ignorance? That element from the myth, the idea of the stepson or adopted son, casts a double shadow on the story: abuse of hospitality and a kind of incest, perhaps even child abuse. All these associations are preposterous, subjective, impertinent, and probably irrelevant. They offer a stark counterpoint to the possibility that, nevertheless, the woman is portrayed, in both Thomas Mann's novel Joseph and His Brothers and the Qur'an, as deserving of a self-construed sympathy.

Keywords:   knowledge, ignorance, hospitality, incest, Thomas Mann, Qur'an, sympathy, Joseph and His Brothers, Islam, feminism

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