This article seeks to clarify the stakes of Arwa Salih’s critical methodology by reading her project—specifically, her development of Milan Kundera’s notion of kitsch, her analytic use of gender, and her formal and political concern with legacy and inheritance—alongside the literary history of iltizam. The article contends that Salih’s critical method and search for ethical knowledge frame iltizam as a form of militant kitsch that prized dogma and readymade answers over ethical and political curiosity. By reading Salih’s historical-political critique in terms of gendered literary symbolism and aesthetics, the article attempts to make clear the resonance of her analytic method in the field of modern Arabic literature—especially Egyptian literature—and to point out how literature and critique are implicated in the social and political changes that forged and solidified Egypt’s neoliberal era.

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