Open to students of 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).
Students from other programmes are kindly referred to the course description of the regular MA course.
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.
Mode of instruction
Attendance and participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to 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. Being absent without notification can result in a lower grade or exclusion from the term end exams and a failing grade for the course.
Each week an assignment will be handed out to be prepared for the next class and to be discussed in class. Students are expected to be able to answer the different issues presented in the homework.
|Total course load: 10 EC x 28 hours||280 hours|
|Contact hours||24 hours|
|Extra contact hours for ResMA students||6 hours|
|Preparation for classes, translating Arabic texts and reading secondary literature||120 hours|
|Presentation and writing paper||130 hours|
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). It is also unacceptable for students to reuse portions of texts they had previously authored and have already received academic credit for on this or other courses. In such cases, students are welcome to self-cite so as to minimise overlap between prior and new work.
Students must submit their assignment(s) to the blackboard through turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.
Assessment and weighing
|Participation and performance in assignments during semester||20%|
|Final paper (approximately 5,000 words)||60%|
The final paper is written in two stages: a first version which will be commented on and a final version. Students who do not meet the deadline for the first version will lose the right to get comments and will only be graded based on their final version.
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.
The final mark for this course is formed by the weighted average.
In order to pass the course, students must obtain an overall mark of 5.50 (=6) or higher.
The course is an integrated whole. All assessment parts must be completed in the same academic year. No partial marks can be carried over into following years.
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.
If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam/paper results, an exam/paper review will be organized.
Blackboard will be used for:
Distributing copies of primary source texts (in Arabic and translation)
Distributing key secondary readings
Note: there is no separate Blackboard page available for this ResMa course. Please subscribe to the Blackboard page of the regular MA course.
Specific readings for each week and primary materials to be translated in class (and translations of Arabic texts for class discussion) will be listed on Blackboard. The below lists the major contributions on the themes of the course..
Books and articles on Bandits, Outlaw Theory, Resistance and Narrative:
Hobsbawm, Eric, Bandits (Third Edition). London: Abacus, 2001.
Ricoeur, Paul, Time and Narrative. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1990. (especially Vol. 3)
Seal, Graham, Outlaw Heroes in Myth and History. London: Anthem, 2011.
White, Hayden, “The Value of Narrativity in the Representation of Reality”, Critical Enquiry (1980) 5-27.
Books and articles on Arabic Brigand/Outlaw/Bandits - ṣaʿālīk:
“Ṣuʿlūk” in EI2 (by A. Arazi), “Harfūsh” in EI2 (by W. Brinner).
Bosworth, C. E., The Medieval Islamic Underworld. Leiden: Brill, 1976.
Webb, Peter, The Arab Thieves: al-Maqrīzī’s al-Ḫabar ʿan al-Bašar vol.v.2. Leiden: Brill, 2019.
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.
Narrative and Arabic Literature: Fact/Fiction discussed:
Leder, Stefan, “The Literary use of the Khabar”, in Stefan Leder (Ed.), Studies in Arabic Literature and Islam. Leuven: Peeters, 2002, 277-315.
Leder, Stefan (Ed.), Story-Telling in the Framework of Non-Fictional Arabic Literature. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 1998.
Kennedy, Philip (Ed.), On Fiction and Adab in Arabic Literature. Wiesbaden: Harrasowitz, 2005.
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.
For the Research MA students additional readings will be determined by the convener at a later stage taking into account the students’ fields of interest. The extra sessions will be used to discuss the additional literature.
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.
Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs
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 at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accommodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.