ARAB-356 Autobiography in the Arabic Tradition
Spring for 2016-2017
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
The following syllabi may help you learn more about this course (login required):
Spring '17: Khalifah O (file download)
Additional syllabi may be available in prior academic years.
ARAB-356-70 Arab Women’s Autobiography
Spring for 2016-2017
This course explores Arab women’s lives, experiences, struggles, and aspirations as represented in their autobiographies. It will introduce students to major female autobiographical texts in the Arab world from the early 20th century to the present. The course will pay attention to the implications of self-writing and the tensions that are inherent in it, such as truth vs fiction and memory vs. imagination. While focusing exclusively on women’s autobiographies, the course does not invite students to believe that men and women write “differently.” Rather, the course aims to note whether there are recurring themes in Arab women’s autobiographies. How do Arab women negotiate issues of identity, nation, religion, family, and colonialism? What are the potentials of autobiography as a mode of writing that have made it appealing to Arab women? And how have readers in the Arab world and beyond received these autobiographies? Do Arab women choose to “shock” their readers by challenging the social and moral norms in which they live? Do readers fall into the trap of “stereotyping” Arab women when they assume that their autobiographies share similar concerns? These and several other questions will be addressed through a close reading of autobiographies by writers such as the Moroccan Fatima Mernissi, the Palestinian Fadwa Tuqan, the Lebanese Hanan al-Shaykh, and the Egyptian Nawal El Saadawi. This course will be taught in Arabic. In addition to reading autobiographies in Arabic, students will read relevant critical and historical articles in both Arabic and English.
Other academic years
There is information about this course number in other academic years: