Literature & Society in the Middle East


In the aftermath of 9/11, arts and literatures of the Middle East (broadly defined) are often configured for the Euro-American audiences as tools to “understand” the culture and politics of the Middle East. In that light, Middle Eastern artists and authors are easily cast as native informants of their cultural and political contexts. Should art and literature (i.e., Middle Eastern) in translation have the mission to “enlighten” people about the geographies from which they spring? And what happens when authors do seek to make political statements through their work? Does showing "things from a new angle"--a core definition of artistic creativity-- get substituted with showing and/or educating people with a new, alternative political point of view? This course will address works in film and literature that approach the Middle East from multiple angles. Their authors and directors creatively use language and form to engage a wide variety of issues such as gender and sexuality, colonialism, orientalism, death, military coup, guilt, or dystopia. In addition, throughout the semester, we will read critical theory to reconsider approaches to literature and film in general, the Middle Eastern contexts in particular. Through the fiction and film assigned for the class, we will explore how the Middle Eastern contexts help us rethink critical theory and analysis of literature and cinema.

Examines selected works in translation of leading 20th-century poets, novelists, and short story writers that reflect changing conditions and mores within Middle Eastern and North African societies. Investigates such topics as conflicts between traditionalists and modernists, the impact of urbanization on rural societies, and the existential dilemmas of men and women.






Fall 2020

Asli Zehra Igsiz
MW: 2:00 PM - 3:15 PM ONLI