Open to students in the MA Middle Eastern Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) programme who hold a BA in Arabic Studies or have an equivalent level of proficiency in Arabic (level B2 European Common Framework, i.e. at least 80 EC = 2240 hs of language courses at BA level).
If your level of proficiency in Arabic is sufficient and you are interested in this course, but you are not a student in the MA Middle Eastern Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) programme, please contact the instructor Dr. P. Webb prior to registration.
Whether as metaphors of resistance, fantasies of urban imagination, or just the inspiration for good stories, outlaws have featured across Arabic literature since its very beginnings, and their tales have been narrated in poetry, popular literature, and high-culture belles-lettres. Banditry is also a familiar topic in many other literary cultures: Robin Hood, the Chinese Outlaws of the Marsh, and Pancho Villa are figures memorialised in poetry and verse that merge fact and fiction into enduringly popular tales, and there is now a growing body of research about the literary and social functions of these outlaws. This class will use modern theories to study the role of bandit and outlaw figures and the ways in which Muslim writers marshalled stories about them to reconstruct history, critique their current society, and how legends about these figures were born.
Together, theories of social banditry and analysis of the personae and roles of bandits and outlaws in poetry and prose texts (in Arabic and in translation), will enable us to explore the contexts, narratives and discourses of Arabic literary production. The course will focus on pre-modern texts to reveal the literary traditions of outsiders and liminality in Arabic literature; for the final paper, students may undertake deeper study of topics discussed in class, or apply the theories to analysis of outlaws in the modern Middle East.
The ultimate aim of the course is to use the case studies of bandits as a means to explore the ways students can interpret Arabic literature for graduate research, in order to develop the linguistic skills and theoretical methodologies that can unlock the broad panoply of Arabic writing to new approaches.
The student will:
1. Gain experience reading a wide array of Arabic literary texts;
2. Develop skills of textual interpretation to enable independent original research from primary texts;
3. Become familiar with salient features of the main genres of Arabic literary traditions, both in poetry and prose, and the key debates about fact vs. fiction in Arabic adab literature;
4. Develop linguistic skills for reading Arabic literary texts;
5. Learn about outlaws and their role in Arabic literature, and learn the limits and applicability of employing literary theories developed from the study of other world literatures to interpret Arabic literature.
The timetables are available through My Timetable.
Mode of instruction
The class will convene two times/week. Discussions of content, the secondary readings and application of critical reading skills to the primary sources constitute the main seminar (2hrs/wk); ResMA students are required, and all students are invited to attend a separate Arabic text reading session where the primary texts will be studied with emphasis on grammar, translation and Arabic reading skills (1.5hrs/wk).
The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.
For the final paper, students are to identify a bandit/outlaw from Arabic literature (modern or pre-modern), and critically evaluate the literary traditions about him/her. Students will make their selection in consultation with the convenor, and at the end of the semester, students will prepare an in-class presentation on their topic. On the basis of presentation feedback in class and from the convenor, students will prepare the written version of their final paper for submission in January 2021.
Late submissions of the final version will result in a deduction of paper grades as follows: 1-24 hrs late = -0.5; 24-48 hrs late = -1.0; 48-72 hrs late = -1.5; 72-96 hrs late = -2.0. Late papers will not be accepted more than four days after the deadline, including weekends and will be graded with 1.0.
|Participation and performance in assignments during semester||15%|
|Final paper (approximately 4,500 words)||65%|
Only if the total weighted average is insufficient (5.49 or lower) and the insufficient grade is the result of an insufficient paper, a resit of the paper is possible (60%). In that case the convener of the course will assign a (new) topic and give a new deadline.
A resit of the other partial assessments is not possible.
Specific readings for each week and primary materials to be translated in class (and translations of Arabic texts for class discussion) will available online. The below lists the major contributions on the themes of the course..
Key works on Outlawry
Hobsbawm, Eric, Bandits (Third Edition). London: Abacus, 2001.
Seal, Graham, Outlaw Heroes in Myth and History. London: Anthem, 2011.
Webb, Peter, The Arab Thieves: al-Maqrīzī’s al-Ḫabar ʿan al-Bašar vol.v.2. Leiden: Brill, 2019.
Banditry and Criminality in the pre-modern Arabic world
Bosworth, C. E., The Medieval Islamic Underworld. Leiden: Brill, 1976.
Jones, Allen, Early Arabic Poetry: Volume 1 – Marāthī and Suʿlūk Poems. Oxford: Oxford Oriental Monographs, 1992.
Khulayyif, Yūsuf,* al-Shuʿarā’ al-ṣaʿālīk fī al-ʿaṣr al-jāhilī*. Cairo: Dār al-Maʿārif, 1978.
Malti-Douglas, Fedwa, “Classical Arabic Crime Narratives: Thieves and Thievery in adab Literature”, Journal of Arabic Literature 19 (1988), 108-127.
Bandits in other literary traditions for comparative material
Keen, Maurice, The Outlaws of Medieval Legend. London: Routledge, 2000.
Knight, Stephen, Reading Robin Hood. Manchester: Manchester UP, 2015.
Phillips, Helen (Ed.), Bandit Territories: British Outlaws and Their Traditions. Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008.
Students are required to register through uSis. To avoid mistakes and problems, students are strongly advised to register in uSis through the activity number which can be found in the timetable in the column under the heading “USIS-Actnbr.”. More information on uSis is available in Dutch and English. You can also have a look at the FAQ using the search term "uSis".
Not being registered, means no permission to attend this course. See also the webpage on course and exam enrolment for registration deadlines and more information on how to register.
For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.
For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office de Vrieshof.