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The concerns of this seminar are interdisciplinary and humanistic. In addition to Arabic language and literature, the range of interests includes topics of significance for Islamic studies: religion, philosophy, science, law and history of the Muslim world, and modern social and cultural history. The seminar affords an opportunity to members and guest speakers to discuss research in progress. Because the members come from several disciplines, the substantive discussions draw upon various fields to expand the sources, help reformulate questions, and anticipate future publications.

Professor Muhsin al-Musawi

Ruwa Mohammed Alhayek

All seminars will meet over Zoom for the 2020-2021 academic year. Meeting links provided upon RSVP. Meeting dates and times are subject to change. 

Meeting Schedule

01/29/2021 Online Meeting
11:00 AM

Stephan Sperl, University of London

02/26/2021 Online Meeting
11:00 AM
The Literary Qurʾan
Hoda el-Shakry, University of Chicago


In this talk Hoda El Shakry discusses her new book, The Literary Qurʾan: Narrative Ethics in the Maghreb (Fordham University Press, 2019), which was awarded the MLA’s 2020 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies. Showing how the Qurʾan models ethical reading practices, the book examines the influence of Qurʾanic textual, hermeneutical, and philosophical traditions on Arabic and Francophone novels from the Maghreb (Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia). Placing canonical Francophone writers into conversation with lesser-known Arabophone ones, The Literary Qurʾan stages a series of pairings that invite readings across texts, languages, and literary canons. Theorizing the Qurʾan as a literary object, process, and model, the interdisciplinary study blends literary and theological methodologies, conceptual vocabularies, and reading practices.

04/30/2021 Online Meeting
11:00 AM
History of the Novel in Arabic Translation
Rebecca C. Johnson, Northwestern University


What if instead of writing the history of the Arabic novel, we wrote the history of the novel in Arabic? In the decades before the recognized “rise” of the Arabic novel, hundreds of works calling themselves novels and translated from English and French appeared. What would our account of modern Arabic literature, or Arabic literary modernity, look like if we incorporated these works as part of its history, rather than its prehistory? This lecture will examine an episode in the early history of the Arabic novel via the first extant appearance of a novel in Arabic, an 1835 translation of Robinson Crusoe, to highlight the way that attending to the work of translators of the nahḍa can help us re-theorize not only the history of the Arabic novel, but the novel itself as a translational form.