The Department of French and Italian

Emily Drumsta

Assistant ProfessorPh.D., University of California, Berkeley

Emily Drumsta



The Arabic Novel, Modernist Arabic poetry, Maghrebi Literature & Culture, Translation Studies, Comparative Literature, Gender and Translation


Emily Drumsta is Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern Studies and French & Italian Studies at the University of Texas at Austin, specializing in modern Arabic and Francophone literatures. Her current book project, Ways of Seeking (under contract with the University of California Press) explores the history of detection and investigation in twentieth-century Arabic fiction. Her translation, Revolt Against the Sun: The Selected Poetry of Nazik al-Mala'ikah (Saqi Books in 2020), was the recipient of a PEN/Heim Translation prize in 2018. She is a co-founder of Tahrir Documents, an online archive of newspapers, broadsides, pamphlets, and other ephemera collected in Cairo’s Tahrir Square during the 2011 uprisings in Egypt.


FR 390N • Reading The Maghreb

36340 • Spring 2022
Meets M 2:00PM-5:00PM HRH 2.106C
(also listed as MES 386)

Beginning with anti-colonial struggles for independence in the nineteen-fifties, fictions from the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya) have been preoccupied with mothers and fathers, gestation and regeneration, inheritance and transmission, desires and origins blocked or diverted. In this graduate seminar, we will read Maghrebi literature and film of both French and Arabic expression, together with works of psychoanalytic and postcolonial theory, focusing in particular on uncertain origins and aborted futures, geographies of the North African landscape and of the soul. Texts by Achaari, Berrada, Chraïbi, Djebar, Kateb, al-Koni, Mustaghanimi, Wattar; Deleuze & Guattari, Fanon, Freud, Jameson, Lacan. No language prerequisite; students of French or Arabic are invited to read in the original; English translations will be specified.

MES 342 • Detective Fiction East/West

40190 • Spring 2022
Meets TTH 12:30PM-2:00PM CAL 200

Though often marginalized as unserious or lowly genre fiction, the detective plot has interested and influenced literary figures ranging from Jorge Luis Borges and Thomas Pynchon to Tzvetan Todorov and Frederic Jameson. In this course, we examine both the origins and the afterlives of the detective plot in fiction from around the world, with a particular focus on the Middle East and North Africa.

We will begin the semester with some of the most important "classics" for Arab writers: Edgar Allan Poe, Maurice Leblanc, and Raymond Chandler. From here, we will trace how authors from Tawfiq al-Hakim and Naguib Mahfouz to Elias Khoury and Sonallah Ibrahim reconfigured key tropes from these works for their own social, political, and cultural purposes, including: the detective as reader, the social construction of crime and criminals, the private eye as moral crusader, the fallibility of empirical evidence, and the multiplicity of truth.

Assignments will be designed to improve students' analytical writing skills. We will model our own analytical writing practices after those used by the detectives in the works we read: gathering concrete evidence from the texts and stitching this evidence together into coherent, convincing arguments. No knowledge of a regional language is required for enrollment; an additional Arabic section will be held for students of the language.

Profile Pages

  • Department of French and Italian

    University of Texas at Austin
    201 W 21st Street STOP B7600
    HRH 2.114A
    Austin, TX 78712-1800