ARAB-356 Autobiography in the Arabic Tradition
Spring for 2014-2015
Is the drive to write an autobiography universal? Is an illiterate Moroccan’s autobiography penned by an American legitimate? What do the tensions between truth and invention, memory and imagination tell us about former Egyptian president Anwar Sadat’s autobiography? How can an American slave’s autobiography written in classical Arabic challenge notions of literacy, class, and race? Why is the autobiography of the blind Taha Hussein, who accused Arabs of falsifying classical Arabic canon, the paragon of modern Arabic canon?
This course works with a variety of classical and modern Arabic life-narratives from the 9th to the 20th centuries analyzing them from a non-Eurocentric perspective. It studies how questions of genre, form, and shifts in the constructing and performing of the self and life affect our understanding of another’s self-narrative in the Arabic tradition. Among the studied works are the life stories of political, literary, journalistic, feminist and artistic figures as well as illiterates, thieves, slaves and bums.
The course will be taught in English
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