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Themes in Modern Arabic Literature


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Arabic, Persian and Turkish Languages and Cultures, specialisation Arabic Studies or the Research Master Area Studies, specialisation Middle Eastern Studies and the ability to read Arabic (level B2 European Common Framework). Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os or Dr. Dina Heshmat, (if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student admitted to one of the above-mentioned master programmes or if you are not confident regarding your level of Arabic.


Focus of the course will be Arabic novels and short stories in their literary and historical context. Focus of the course will be Arabic novels and short stories in their literary and historical context. General theoretical courses will be given at the beginning of the seminar, focusing on methods to analyze modern literary narratives. Special attention will be given to narratology and to formal aspects (intertextuality, metafiction or polyphony, to name but a few) of the texts read. This year’s focus will be on memory: memory of war in Lebanese literature, of the Nakba in Palestinian literature, of the Algerian war of liberation, of Cairene spaces resisting urban landscape transformations in Egyptian literature, etc. Readings are based on background literature as well as Arabic short stories and novel extracts.

Course objectives

Students will be familiarized with developments in modern Arabic literature. Through the close reading of novels and short stories they will enhance their knowledge of literary language(s) of both the Mashriq and the Maghreb and be able at the end of the course to conduct an analysis of the formal aspects of a literary narrative using concepts of narratology.


The course is scheduled on Wednesdays, 13.15 – 17.00 hs and will start on Wednesday, 2 March 2011.

Method of Instruction

Seminar, weekly attendance and participation required. Readings and papers on selected topics.

Required reading

M.BAL, Narratology, Introduction to the theory of Narrative, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.
Additional readings (background literature as well as Arabic Short stories and novel extracts) to be found on Blackboard and in the pigeon hole.


  • Final paper (between 3,000 to 4,000 words) (60%) to be completed before the end of the course. A printed draft version is to be presented and discussed during the course; the feedback given by the instructor and fellow students must be integrated into the final version.

  • Oral Presentation 30%

  • Participation and performance in weekly assignments 10%


Blackboard will be used for internal communication and distribution of the readings.


Registration via uSis.

Contact information

Dr. D. Heshmat