The article investigates Abd al-Rahmàn al-Abnudi’s al-Midàn (The Square), the celebrated poem in colloquial Egyptian Arabic dedicated to the Egyptian young people who occupied the central Midàn al-Tahrìr (Tahrìr Square or Liberation Square) in Cairo on 25th January 2011 paving the way for the revolution. The poem, written during the very first days of the uprising, is analyzed in the context of the major transformations in the Egyptian literary field during the decade 2001-2011. In this period the state’s cultural institutions lost much of their traditional power to exert authority over the contents of literary production and its circulation among the reading public. One of the most outstanding features of these transformations, is represented by the role of internet as a means of circulation and reception of literary texts, especially by means of blogs and YouTube. The article considers several versions of al-Midàn uploaded on YouTube and highlights the process by which the poem was transformed by each user into a (re) newed multimodal text, where different semiotic resources interact: the reading of the poem, the video images, and (if present) the soundtrack. These videos were viewed and commented on by hundreds of thousands of YouTube users in the weeks following the writing of the poem and have made a decisive contribution to the shaping of the revolution’s collective imaginary.
Arab Revolutions; colloquial Egyptian poetry; al-Midàn; YouTube; multimodality