Qiblah and Qabbalah*: Comparativizing† Jewish Provenance of Contemporary American Literary Theory from a Pakistani Perspective


  • Iftikhar Shafi


Back in 1970‘s, Harold Bloom, a Jewish American literary critic, announced the advent of a new critical paradigm on the American literary scene that was to replace the earlier Christian-Aristotelian and Christian-Platonic paradigms. Bloom called this new paradigm the ‗Kabbalistic model‘. Moving along the fault-lines of the Kabbalistic grounds upon which the edifice of the contemporary American literary theory was to rest, with a view to explore and possibly penetrate the fissures, this paper suggests the possibility of comparativizing a ‗poetics of tradition‘, metonymized here through the sign of qiblah. Despite seeming to share a certain semantic field by virtue of a possible etymological affinity in the senses of ‗reception‘ and ‗tradition‘, it may well be taken as a historically attested opinion that the two terms seek to generate quite divergent critical paradigms. As compared to qabbalah, a paradigm that has given rise to a whole range of de-centered critical approaches (a ‗hermeneutics of suspicion‘ as against a ‗hermeneutics of faith‘, to use Paul Ricoeur‘s terms), qiblah terminologically designates a centre and a direction that has the function of regulating all the spiritual and cognitive practices of its adherents.