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Prospectus

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Comparative Literatures of the Middle East

Course
2020-2021

Please note: The course information for next academic year has not yet been updated. Below you will find the course information from last academic year. As soon as we have an update we will immediately change this information.

Admission requirements

Students who have successfully completed the propedeutic exam of the BA Middle Eastern Studies.

Description

This course analyses the making of the modern Middle East through the literature of its four main language groups, Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish. At the beginning of the 20th century, the Middle East was a land of ‘old cultures’ but ‘new states’: each of the main language groups possessed rich, centuries-old literary traditions, while they confronted new challenges of organising nation states and creating new national identities for the modern period. The state creation and national identity building projects across the 20th century created the Middle East as we know it today, and Middle Eastern literature gives rich insight into the region’s nations and nationalism that cannot be understood via political sciences alone. The literature reveals the ways in which the region’s cultural producers, across the spectrum from states to writers to rebels, meld old traditions with their new nations, and their experiences of state building reflect the changing meaning of ‘the nation’ across time and space.

This course studies the development of national literatures in the modern Middle East from a comparative perspective: we trace the process of national identity building as revealed through literary production in the Arab world, Iran, Israel and Turkey, and we relate the literary texts to the seminal periods of the development of the respective nations. The course is comparative, and we will compare and contrast the processes of national identity building by asking the same questions of the different bodies of literature:

a) How do authors contribute to the process of national identity construction?
b) How do authors represent the idea of ‘the nation’?
c) What cultural traditions feature in the definition of the new nation states, and how did the uses of ‘tradition’ change over the process of state formation? What does the use of literary traditions tell us about the national identities of modern Middle Eastern states?
d) How and where did literature act as a form of resistance to the new nation state construction projects?

The course begins with an introductory lecture on literature and nationalism. It is followed by 3-week sessions on each of the four language groups, during which students will read literary texts (poetry, short stories and/or excerpts from novels) and secondary readings about Middle Eastern literature and theoretical readings about the nation and nationalism.
In addition to the lectures, weekly preparation and end of semester paper, language-track students will read a short novel (c. 120 pages) in the original language via self-study, guided in an additional weekly reading class with a take-home translation assessment due at the end of the course. Non-language students will read translations of two novels (minimum 400 pages total) and prepare a reading report due after the Examination Week.

Course objectives

The student will
a) become familiar with modern Arabic, Hebrew, Persian and Turkish literature, both poetry and prose;
b) be introduced to the modern significance of the classical literary traditions for each language;
c) learn how to use literary theory of the nation, post-colonialism and nostalgia to analyse literature and place it in its cultural and social context;
d) evaluate concepts of ‘tradition’, ‘modernity’, the state and the poetics of nostalgia; and
e) for language students read a complete novel in the original language; or
f) for non-language students read 2 complete novels (in translation) from two of the four languages covered on this course.

Timetable

Timetable

Mode of instruction

  • Lecture

  • Seminar

  • Seminar: additional class for language students

Lecture
Attendance is not obligatory for lectures. The conveners do not need to be informed in case of missed classes. Information and knowledge provided in the lectures greatly contribute to the subsequent courses of the programme. In order to pass the course, students are strongly advised to attend all sessions.

Seminar
Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The convenors need to be informed without delay of any classes missed for a good reason (i.e. due to unforeseen circumstances such as illness, family issues, problems with residence permits, the Dutch railways in winter, etc.). In these cases it is up to the discretion of the convener(s) of the course whether or not the missed class will have to be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Being absent without notification and/or more than two times can result in exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.

Course Load

5 EC x 28 hrs = 140 hrs
Lectures (13 x 2) 26
Study of compulsory literature 32
Researching and writing final essay 20
Preparation language tutorials 50 [for language students]
Tutorials 12 [for language students]
Reading and preparing reading report 62 [for non-language students]

Assessment and weighing

Practical exercise

Students are required to attend two lectures organised by either LUCIS or the department of Middle Eastern Studies at Leiden. Attendance will be taken, and students who are not recorded as attending at least two lectures during the course of the semester will not be able to pass the course.

Language students: Weighing
Seminar participation: each week, a discussion question will be set based on the primary and secondary readings. Students must formulate ideas for discussion and submit them (in point form or short sentences approx. ½-1 page) on Blackboard the DAY BEFORE CLASS. Each week one (or more) student will be nominated as moderator of the discussion. The moderator(s) will be responsible for reading each of the student submissions and leading discussion in class with the assistance of the teacher. 10%
Primary Text Assessments
Summer reading take-home assignment: students will be provided with a reading in their language of specialisation to be completed before the start of the Semester. The reading will be assessed comprehension questions and a translation test in the first language seminar 10%
Translation Take-Home Assignment, due 7 January 2019. Translate 4 pages of the novel assigned for the special reading class in an appropriate literary register in English or Dutch. Pages to be assigned by the teacher 25%
Comparative essay, due 10 January 2020 55%
Non-language students: Weighing
Seminar participation: each week, a discussion question will be set based on the primary and secondary readings. Students must formulate ideas for discussion and submit them (in point form or short sentences approx. ½-1 page) on Blackboard the DAY BEFORE CLASS. Each week one (or more) student will be nominated as moderator of the discussion. The moderator(s) will be responsible for reading each of the student submissions and leading discussion in class with the assistance of the teacher. 10%
Reading Report, due 5 November 2019. Write a two-page report based on two books in translation (one page/book). Instructions will be provided by the lecturers 30%
Comparative essay, due 10 January 2020 60%

The final mark for the course is established by determining the weighted average.

Resit

Students are entitled to resit the Comparative Essay. The Instructor will assign a new essay question to each re-sitting student, and the due-date for the re-sit paper will be 27 January 2020. Students are not allowed to prepare the same essay question as used in their initial submission of the Comparative Paper.

Exam review

If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will be organized.

Reading list

Students will receive a detailed week-by-week handout of the required readings at the beginning of the course.
The detailed syllabus and readings will also be available on Blackboard.

In preparation for the course, students are advised to read the following text which will be discussed throughout the class:

  • Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities. London: Verso, 1991.

Students may also wish to consult the following:

  • Badawi, M. M. (ed), Modern Arabic Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1992.

  • Ouyang, Wen-Chin, Politics of Nostalgia in the Arabic Novel. Edinburgh, Edinburgh UP, 2014.

  • Said, Edward, Culture and Imperialism. New York: Vintage Books, 1994.

Registration

Enrolment through uSis is mandatory.

Contact

Dr. P. Webb

Remarks

Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).