This course provides an introduction to modern Arabic literature of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. We will examine the interaction between social, political and cultural change in the Middle East and the development of a modern Arabic literary tradition. The texts that form the basis of the syllabus deal with major political, social, religious, cultural, and linguistic aspects of modern Arabic society. The course aims to reflect the different spaces of literary development in diverse parts of the Arab world, including North Africa. The questions we will pursue throughout the semester include: How do these Arab writers conceive of "modernity"? How do they conceive of their relation to politics, and how do they understand the role of intellectuals in their societies? Who are the readers (actual or implied) of these texts? Finally, how do these authors relate to the Arabic literary tradition—including its myths and classical texts—and how is it different from the way they relate to the European and American literary traditions?
Background reading materials will provide students with both a coherent historical context for the literary texts as well as a schema for the major schools and trends of contemporary Arabic fiction. General themes such as the conflict between tradition and modernity, religion and secularism, anti-colonialism and revolutionary discourses, language and nationalistic ideologies, as well as war, emigration, poverty, alienation, childhood, education, freedom of expression, religion and politics, and changing gender roles will be the focus of the course
All required readings are in English. Students who wish to discuss selected passages from the original Arabic (or French), are encouraged to make an appointment with the instructor outside class.