Program in Comparative Literature

Tarek El-Ariss


Associate ProfessorPh.D - 2004, Cornell

Associate Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature
Tarek El-Ariss

Contact

Interests


Contemporary Arabic Literature, Film, and Media; Arabic popular culture and new literary genres; 19th- and 20th-century Arabic travel writing; Translation studies and Post-structuralism

Biography


Tarek El-Ariss's research interests include contemporary Arabic literature, visual culture, and new media; 18th- and 19th-century French and Arabic philosophy and travel writing; and literary theory. He is author of Trials of Arab Modernity: Literary Affects and the New Political (2013), and editor of the forthcoming MLA anthology, The Arab Renaissance: Literature, Culture, Media. He's associate editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature, and edits a series on literature in translation for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas Press entitled, Emerging Voices from the Middle East. His new book project examines new media’s effects on Arabic artistic and political practices by exploring the way that modes of confrontation, circulation, and exhibitionism shape contemporary writing practices and critiques of power.

 

 

 

Courses


ARA 360L • Arabic Voices Poetry To Rap

41164 • Fall 2016
Meets TTH 2:00PM-3:30PM CAL 422

Poetry is associated with the rise of Arabic literature and language. Pre-Islamic and Abbasid odes are traditionally viewed as the purest expressions of the Arab cultural ethos. Some considered the Quran itself poetry when it was first revealed. This poetic tradition went through various transformation with modernist aesthetics in the 1950s and 1960s, and anti-colonial and anti-authoritarian struggles throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. In this course, we will focus on contemporary poetry, specifically examining popular poetry, graphic poetry, rap, slam, hip-hop, and twitter as a poetic genre. We will investigate crossings between contemporary and classical forms, but also crossings between Arabic and non-Arabic genres. We will analyze new poetic forms expressed in a variety of dialectics and cultural contexts, addressing the role of music, digital technology, and political developments in shaping new poetry. We will examine the importance of a new media culture with such TV Shows as Sha‘ir al-Million (Million’s poet) in popularizing new trends and reviving old ones. We will read works by Ahmad Fuad Najm, Mahmoud Darwish, and Walid Taher, and watch performances by Omar Offendum, DAM, Katibeh Khamseh, El-Rass, Sultana, and Tuffar. Conducted in Arabic, the students will be exposed to various texts in MSA and dialects from across the Arab world.

ARA 384C • Arabic Wrtng In Virtual Age

41227 • Fall 2016
Meets W 3:00PM-6:00PM CAL 419

In this graduate seminar we will explore the writings of a new generation of Arab authors. Students will trace this literary development to social and political struggles within the Arab world, the advent of Satellite TV and the Internet, and the effects of globalization, more generally. We will raise the following questions: What forms of literary consciousness arise from these new texts? What are their relations to Western cultural productions on the one hand, and to the canon of Arabic letters, on the other? What new multilingual and interactive domains shape and define this new literature? In what way do new technologies affect the way we tell stories and produce narratives? In turn, how do these new narratives transform and express new configurations of subjectivity, ethics, community, and the political body? We will read works by writers such Youssef Rakha, Ahmad Alaidy, Seba al-Herz, Khalid Khalifeh, Rabih Jaber, and Hamdi Abu Golayyel.

ARA 360L • Arabic Voices: Poetry To Rap

40420 • Spring 2015
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM CAL 419

Poetry is associated with the rise of Arabic literature and language. Pre-Islamic and Abbasid odes are traditionally viewed as the purest expressions of the Arab cultural ethos. Some considered the Quran itself poetry when it was first revealed. This poetic tradition went through various transformation with modernist aesthetics in the 1950s and 1960s, and anti-colonial and anti-authoritarian struggles throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. In this course, we will focus on contemporary poetry, specifically examining popular poetry, graphic poetry, rap, slam, hip-hop, and twitter as a poetic genre. We will investigate crossings between contemporary and classical forms, but also crossings between Arabic and non-Arabic genres. We will analyze new poetic forms expressed in a variety of dialectics and cultural contexts, addressing the role of music, digital technology, and political developments in shaping new poetry. We will examine the importance of a new media culture with such TV Shows as Sha‘ir al-Million (Million’s poet) in popularizing new trends and reviving old ones. We will read works by Ahmad Fuad Najm, Mahmoud Darwish, and Walid Taher, and watch performances by Omar Offendum, DAM, Katibeh Khamseh, El-Rass, Sultana, and Tuffar. Conducted in Arabic, the students will be exposed to various texts in MSA and dialects from across the Arab world.

ARA 384C • Modern Arabic Literature

40495 • Spring 2015
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM CAL 21

Survey of modern Arabic literature that introduces students to major authors and currents from the 19th century to the present. Includes both primary texts and critical works.

ARA 360L • Sci-Fi/Utopia In Arab Culture

41515 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ 1.122

If you have ever been to Egypt, it’s likely that you have heard the expression bash muhandis or ya handasa, literally meaning “Architect Pasha” or “Engineer Pasha.” This title is more important than those of doctor, general, and perhaps even president. What is it about the architect, builder, or engineer that captures so powerfully Egyptian and Arab imagination? In what way can one explain the primacy of this profession in bestowing respect and honor beyond its work context? What does it mean to build or imagine a new society or a new future? How could building also be used for purposes of suppression, separation, and confinement? Conducted in Arabic, this interdisciplinary course traces the notion of muhandiss (engineer, architect) to the Pharaohs, builders of the pyramids, but also to the French Saint-Simonian engineers who built the Suez Canal and the infrastructure of modern Egypt in the 19th century. The course will argue that the order of architects, which has given rise to Free Masonry and ample conspiracy theories surrounding it, is intimately tied to a utopian conception of the state and society. This conception has seen its dystopian moment with the 9/11 engineers (including Mohammed Atta) who planned and conducted the attacks on New York and Washington DC in the name of a larger if not divine architectural scheme. The discourse on “building” here becomes tied to terror and fundamentalism, transforming the builder into destroyer.

This course approaches engineering and building both as profession and as utopia for a new social and political order in the Arab world. Expressed in specific projects such as Solidere in Beirut, these schemes are also imagined in Sci Fi and futuristic literature and film. We will read selections from Abd al-Rahman al-Munif’s Cities of Salt, Sophia al-Maria’s The Girl who Fell to Earth, Noura Noman’s Ajwan, Khaled Tawfiq’s Utopia, and Arabian Nights (“Julnar the Sea-Born,” a precursor to the myth of Atlantis). We will also examine the question of utopia in the philosophical writings of Al-Farabi (The Virtuous City) and Francis Fathallah Marrash (Forest of Truth), and in films by Larissa Sansour, Ali Cherri, Simone Bitton, and Joanna Hajithomas and Khalil Joreige.Texts & Grading

To be determined by instructor.

ARA 360L • Arabic Voices: Poetry To Rap

41875 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 11:00AM-12:30PM MEZ 1.208

Poetry is associated with the rise of Arabic literature and language. Pre-Islamic and Abbasid odes are traditionally viewed as the purest expressions of the Arab cultural ethos. Some considered the Quran itself poetry when it was first revealed. This poetic tradition went through various transformation with modernist aesthetics in the 1950s and 1960s, and anti-colonial and anti-authoritarian struggles throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. In this course, we will focus on contemporary poetry, specifically examining popular poetry, graphic poetry, rap, slam, hip-hop, and twitter as a poetic genre. We will investigate crossings between contemporary and classical forms, but also crossings between Arabic and non-Arabic genres. We will analyze new poetic forms expressed in a variety of dialectics and cultural contexts, addressing the role of music, digital technology, and political developments in shaping new poetry. We will examine the importance of a new media culture with such TV Shows as Sha‘ir al-Million (Million’s poet) in popularizing new trends and reviving old ones. We will read works by Ahmad Fuad Najm, Mahmoud Darwish, and Walid Taher, and watch performances by Omar Offendum, DAM, Katibeh Khamseh, El-Rass, Sultana, and Tuffar. Conducted in Arabic, the students will be exposed to various texts in MSA and dialects from across the Arab world.

ARA 384C • Translation: Theory & Practice

41965 • Spring 2014
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM CAL 422

Tarjama, which means “translation” in Arabic, is not Arabic at the origin. In fact, when searching for this word in the old Arabic lexicons, we only find the verb tarjam (to translate) and turjman (translator), but not tarjama (translation). This word, which seems to have lost its origin, is never one with itself, complete, or whole. It is as if something about translation, from the beginning, is elusive, in motion in between subject (translator) and verb (to translate). And even when we find the word in Arabic, it is often in its plural form, as in tarajim (translations), which also means biographies, interpretations, and life events. So what about this word, “translation,” that never reveals its origin? Is it of the outcome of a primordial act of violence that needs to be veiled and suppressed?

This course explores the practice and theory of translation through Arabic and European philosophical and literary texts. It starts with the different understandings of tarjama in Arabic from classical sources through Nahda and contemporary contexts. Situating this trajectory in relation to European theories of translation, we will explore the way translation is fundamentally tied to an act of reading and analysis that conceals meaning and difference at the same time. We will address contemporary translation in the Arab world, exploring prize politics and scandals, methods and topics. Literary analysis and translation are fundamental components of this course, which allows students to activate the theoretical models introduced.

We will read Hadith, Ibn Manzur, Abdel-Rahman al-Jabarti, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Walter Benjamin, George Steiner, Jacques Derrida, Sandra Berman, Marilyn  Booth, Lisa Suheir Majaj, Lawrence Venuti, and Emily Apter.

ARA 384C • Refig Loss Contemp Arab Lit

41800 • Fall 2013
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM CAL 422

Starting with an overview of representations of loss in classical Arabic literature, this course, conducted in Arabic, lays the theoretical foundations for reading loss in contemporary texts. Incorporating Arab and Western frameworks, we will investigate representations of death, both material and metaphorical, as we interrogate categories of language and memory in literature and film. We will explore the manifestation of loss as a repression of the Arabic language due to the experience of exile and separation. We will also extend the concept of loss to the cultural and political realms in order to examine literary lamentations of Arab dispossession and humiliation following military and ideological defeats in the second half of the twentieth century. We will analyze discourses on the Revolution and Pan-Arabism and read texts and watch films that problematically stage loss as constitutive of Arab subjectivity following 1967. Finally, we will situate this investigation in relation to current development in the Arab world, examining alternative configurations of Arab subjectivity. We will read literary works by ‘Abd al-Ra?man al-Munif, Hoda Barakat, Elyas Khuri, ?alim Barakat, Youssef Idris, Ghassan Kanafani, and Assia Djebar and examine theoretical material and criticism by Sigmund Freud, Moneera al-Ghadeer, Jacques Derrida, Ann Cvetkevitch, and Ella Shohat.

C L 390 • Contemporary Literary Theory

34070 • Fall 2013
Meets T 5:00PM-8:00PM CAL 21

Where does a survey of contemporary literary theory begin and what does it consist of? The question itself, the task at hand, requires theorization. “Where to start and how to end” usher in a discussion of genealogy and progression, putting in question movement and linearity. It is with this very “putting in question,” then, that we begin, with Jonathan Culler’s theory—his trajectory and his take on the field. From this reflection we turn to dream and representation, language and fantasy, exploring their relation to writing, power, and subjectivity. Reading the unconscious in Freud and Lacan we explore that which conditions yet lies beyond the narrative of the self (subjectivity), there, at its origin. This elusive origin, however, is staged in the work of Derrida, who, through multiple ellipses and deconstructions undoes and unsettles the origin’s primacy and centrality, exposing its fissures and fragmentation.

In the spirit of the unsettling of center and periphery, conscious and unconscious, we turn to Foucault’s channeling of Nietzsche in order to bring in the rupture, the accidental, that which is suppressed from the narrative in order for the latter to unfold. The suppression is productive, as Foucault himself claims, of a discourse on the other—of the other as discourse. This production we explore in Said, Adorno, and Horkheimer, investigating their critique of the humanist tradition in Europe and its processes of othering from the 18th century onward.

In the same vein, discursive criticism has also engendered the body, performed according to Butler through mimesis and insubordination. Queer and feminist theory intervene at this level to further expose the psychoanalytic narrative and its normative assumptions. This exposure leads in the works of Cixous and Adnan to a “blowing up” of and in language, of the patriarchal sign and representation, of modes of erasure and violence, of speaking for and speaking about.

Against representation and the figurative, we engage works by Deleuze and Guattari as they read Kafka. To read for them is to follow traces, to capture murmurs and groans uttered by an insect-like creature with new consciousness. Georg Samsa’s transformation in the Metamorphosis is read in D/G’s as the framework for the notion of deterritorialization—a movement, a groaning, an exorcism, an unsettling of narrative and/as ideology against Freud’s Oedipus. The course returns elliptically, at the end, almost to where it started, only to bring in haunting and the state of the theoretical and colonial debt, back to Derrida and Haneke, to European literature and film. We also return, by the same gesture, to the state of the literary in theory first discussed in Culler’s book, and ask: What haunts the field of comparative literature today? Through what currents and trends and fissures and crises does it continue to be refigured and reimagined?

ARA 360L • The Arab Spring

41190 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM SAC 5.102

Through films, music, literature, and historical and political writings and internet sites, this interdisciplinary course examines what has come to be known as “The Arab Spring,” namely the social and political upheavals and revolutions that gripped the Arab world  starting with Tunisia in December 2010. Engaging definition and theories of revolution in the Arabic context, this course will examine its recent manifestation in social, political, artistic, musical, and technological contexts. The students and I will focus on the relation between new media and activism and examine the way Satellite TV and the Internet have paved the way for a radical change in the Arab world. Conducted in Arabic, the students will be exposed to various Arabic texts from street signs to tweets in MSA and dialects from across the Arab world. Conducted in Arabic. 

 

C L 386 • Arabic Writ In The Virtual Age

33805 • Spring 2012
Meets M 3:00PM-6:00PM MEZ 1.118
(also listed as ARA 384C)

In this graduate seminar we will explore the writings of a new generation of Arab authors. Students will trace this literary development to social and political struggles within the Arab world, the advent of Satellite TV and the Internet, and the effects of globalization, more generally. We will raise the following questions: What forms of literary consciousness arise from these new texts? What are their relations to Western cultural productions on the one hand, and to the canon of Arabic letters, on the other? What new multilingual and interactive domains shape and define this new literature? In what way do new technologies affect the way we tell stories and produce narratives? In turn, how do these new narratives transform and express new configurations of subjectivity, ethics, community, and the political body? We will read works by writers such Youssef Rakha, Ahmad Alaidy, Seba al-Herz, Khalid Khalifeh, Rabih Jaber, and Hamdi Abu Golayyel.

Graduate Supervision


PhD

2016     Anna Ziajka Stanton, Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "From a Labor of Love to Gulf Labor: The Ethics of Translating Arabic Literature in a Global Age."
Position: Penn State University, Department of Comparative Literature (tenure-track).

2016   Katie Logan, Comparative Literature,  Arabic and English (co-chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Geographies of Memory in Arab Women’s Writing."
PositionVirginia Commonwealth University, Program in Focused Inquiry-University College.

2015   Noah Simblist, Art and Art History (co-chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Digging through Time: Psycogeographies of Occupation."
Position: Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts (Associate Professor).

2014   Michal Raizen, Comparative Literature, Arabic/Hebrew (co-chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Ecstatic Feedback: Toward an Ethics of Audition in the Contemporary Literary Arts of the Mediterranean."
Position: Ohio Wesleyan University, Department of Comparative Literature (tenure-track).

2013   W. Andrew Paul, Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic/Hebrew (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Border Fiction: Fracture and Contestation in Post-Oslo Palestinian Culture."
Position: University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (tenure-track).

2013     Johanna Sellman, Comparative Literature, Arabic/French/Swedish (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "The Biopolitics of Belonging: Europe in Post-Cold War Arabic Literature of Migration."
Position: Ohio State University, Department of Near Eastern Languages & Cultures (tenure-track).

2012     Benjamin Koerber, Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "The Aesthetics and Politics of Rumor: The making of Egyptian Public Culture."
Position: Rutgers University, Department of Africa, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Studies (tenure-track).

2011     Zeina Halabi, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Writing Melancholy: The Death of the Intellectual in Modern Arabic Literature."
Position: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Department of Asian Studies (tenure-track).