Love Stinks: Bitter Love poems in Arabic and English for the Lonely and Brokenhearted

I gave a lighthearted talk to AUC students this afternoon in advance of Valentine's Day. This year, I showed them examples of slightly bitter, disappointed, and angry love poems because last year I'd showed more optimistic and romantic poems and I want to be fair to those who aren't in relationships at the moment or who've been burned once or twice. For those who couldn't attend or want to spend more time with my examples, here are the slides.

New Article: The Many Lives of Arabic Verse


I have a new article out in the most recent issue of the Journal of Arabic Literature (vol. 44, no. 3, 2013). The article is called 'The Many Lives of Arabic Verse: Ibn Nubātah al-Miṣrī mourns more than once' and it treats a set of five elegiac poems Ibn Nubātah (d. 1366) wrote on the death of his slave concubine. I try to suggest a solution to a significant methodological problem in the history of classical Arabic poetry by introducing a method of reading I call poetry in parallel.

Read the article here

New Class for the Spring: Literature and Gender (ARIC 3104)

I will be teaching a new course in the spring semester 2014 on gender in pre-modern Arabic literature. My colleague Samia Mehrez originated the course and I believe that when she taught it she focused primarily (if not exclusively) on modern Arabic literature as this is the area of her specialization.

The class is what we call a 300-level and it fulfills core (ie general education) requirements so I won't plan too ambitiously, but the nice thing about AUC is that I can read original Arabic texts with my students with pace and comprehension expectations similar to advanced graduate reading seminars in North American and Europe. They are not, on the other hand, as well versed in things like gender or critical theory, or even the practice of literary studies, so I will try to supplement this to the extent possible. I haven't planned my syllabus yet, but I plan to run them through Ibn Abī Ṭāhir Ṭayfūr's Balāghāt al-nisāʾ and perhaps either al-Suyūṭī's Jawārī  or Ibn al-Sāʿī's Nisāʾ al-khulafāʾ . For the first and third of these, I found PDF scans online so that will make things cheaper and more convenient for the students. There are some good secondary texts, above all Marlé Hammond's recent Beyond Elegy , but also F. Malti-Douglas, the Islamicate Sexualities  volume, as well as work by M. Gordon and K. Richardson on female slaves. I will probably also include D. Sajdi's excellent article on Laylā al-Akhyaliyyah and parts of A. Najmabadi's and S. Amer's books. The focus of the class will be on reading and understanding the classical texts, however, and there will inevitably be some grammar remediation, an overview of how to read classical Arabic poetry, and comparisons with similar or dissimilar genres and examples in Persian (e.g. Laylī o Majnūn, Vīs o Rāmīn) and Ottoman (e.g. Hüsn u Aşk) literature. The issue of adolescent males will be controversial, as it always is when I teach it, but masculinity is an important part of gender and the classical Arabic gender ecosystem is not binary as many students might initially believe.