The Serialized Novel’s Modern Subject
This chapter discusses serialized translated novels. The Arabic novel made its own proper entry into the Arabic print sphere at this moment as a part of the uncertain reform project of print culture. Novels were published after and alongside a larger body of serialized translated novels that in fact occupied the greater part of the new audience's leisure reading habits. Over the course of the first decades of commercial print from the late 1850s to the late 1870s, serialized translated novels appeared in almost every type of Arabic periodical; for many readers, the word “novel” itself probably referred to these works and not the few original ones produced to compete with them. It was not just news translation that was central to the development of Arabic print culture; the translated novel, which appeared first and most prominently in serialized form, was often identified as part of periodicals' reform projects. At the same time that editors embraced translated fiction as a vehicle for their messages, however, their claim that these works served serious moral purposes was by no means indisputable. These novels' excesses were not always containable by the moral intentions of journal editors, who sometimes resorted to qualifications and elaborate interpretations in order to justify their publication. Print's civilizing reform mission, as uncertain as it was, had a primary object: the modern reading subject. Transforming the public into a reading public, and one that read properly, was the goal of many magazine producers who outlined ideal reading practices and modeled them through novels. And it was likewise a goal with an uncertain outcome.
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