Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Ammiel Alcalay

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature | Jewish Studies | Near Eastern Languages and Societies | Other International and Area Studies


Arabic literature, French, Hebrew literature, Judaism


This study proposes that the influence of nineteenth century French Judaism on the Jewish communities of the Middle East from approximately 1910­‐1956 has had an indelible influence on the evolution of Franco- Jewish‐Arab literature today. From the late nineteenth century, the education of the Jews of the Ottoman Empire was provided by the Paris based Alliance Israélite Universelle, an organization established by French Jews with the purpose of emancipating disadvantaged Jewish communities outside of France. The result was the establishment of Franco­‐Jewish-Arab communities that regarded French education as a means of both social and economic advancement. Although the curriculum of the Alliance stressed both secular and religious elements it promoted a priori, the superiority of nineteenth century French Judaism based on the ideology of universalism that emanated from the French Revolution.

Franco-Jewish­‐Arab literature both of the period and written as a memoir after the period, depicts and records the effects of French Judaism on these communities. It manifests the degree to which French Judaism actively suppressed both the communities' involvement with Arab nationalist movements and the development of the nascent Zionist movement, rendering Franco-Jewish-Arab communities hopelessly mal-positioned to negotiate the changes that ensued in the aftermath of the rise of Arab nationalism during the 1920's and 1930's and the establishment of the Jewish state in 1948. Ultimately, these factors contributed to the dismantling of these Jewish communities. The first part of this work primarily examines the combined effects of the nineteenth century French Judaism model on the Franco­‐Jewish-Arab communities of the Middle East. The second part of this thesis examines the provenance and classification of Franco­‐Jewish- Arab literature. It proposes that Franco-Jewish-Arab literature distinguishes itself as a distinct genre, and that regardless of whether it is written in French or Hebrew, it retains credible remnants of universalism based on French Judaism that resist conventional classification and in particular, the notoriously nationalist discourse of Middle Eastern literature. This offers the hypothesis that a new genre of French literature has evolved that does not necessarily have to be written in French, but retains its Francité by cleavage to French cultural ideas and political influence .