, Volume 94, Issue 4, pp 637-652
Date: 29 Apr 2010

Diana Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz: An Orphic Vision of Hybrid Cultural Identity

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Abstract

While most critics relate Abu-Jaber’s Arabian Jazz to African American art, this paper considers the myth of Orpheus a more viable destination, arguing that Arabian Jazz adopts an orphic vision as a model for cultural hybridity. The myth of Orpheus appealed to Abu-Jaber for various reasons. First, the myth underlines the significance and power of music, both matters celebrated in Arabian Jazz. Second, the myth deals with love, a missed wife, and a husband’s loneliness after his wife’s death as exactly is the case of Matussem. Third, Orpheus is known for his ability to harmonize the extremes and Arabian Jazz has so many contending poles: American and Arab cultures; man and woman; young and old; modern and traditional. Fourth, the myth is relevant to Arabian Jazz because it is related to modern and traditional Arab American literary incorporations of orphic music. Abu-Jaber hence poses as a prophetess of orphic doctrines concerned about hybridizing the contesting parties in the psyche of the Arab American. Such an orphic model for cultural hybridity, the study suggests, might be considered in cultural studies, particularly in cases of incorporations of music in minority literatures, along with such concepts as ‘internationalism’, ‘middle passage’, ‘mezzaterra’, and ‘borderland’.