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NEAR E 530 A: Colonialism, Nationalism, and the Modern Arabic Novel

Meeting Time: 
TTh 6:00pm - 7:20pm
DEN 111
Joint Sections: 
NEAR E 330 A
Terri Deyoung
Terri L. DeYoung

Syllabus Description:


Colonialism, Nationalism and

the Modern Arabic Novel

(1880-1975 C.E.)

Winter Quarter 2018


 Class Location: Denny Hall 111

Class Time: TTh 6:00-7:20

SLN Number: 18313

Instructor: Terri DeYoung 

Office: 246 Denny Hall

Office Hours: TTh 2:30-3:20

Telephone: (206)543-6184

or (206)543-6033 (dept. office--leave message)



Course Description: This course will examine the development of the novel as a genre of Arabic literature. The novel, as a form of narrative, was imported from the West in the nineteenth century, but it has, since World War II, come to dominate literary production in the Arab world. This quarter, we will look at how the Arabic novel can be read and understood against the background of the development of Arab nationalism and the resistance to colonialism, which were extremely important factors in determining the concerns addressed by modern Arab writers and intellectuals.

In addition to its primary purpose of studying how, historically, the novel was adapted into the Arab milieu, the course will focus on giving a better understanding of 1) how colonial policies were imposed and how they functioned, 2) how nationalist ideas developed as a way of resisting colonial initiatives in the Arab world and 3) how this tension was reflected in literary developments. Since this is a survey course that will use only texts in translation, no knowledge of Arabic (or any other language except English) is required.

Course Goals: At the end of the course, the student will know the canon of modern Arabic novels. S/he will know what the major events are in 19th- and 20th-century Western colonial and Arab national history. In addition, s/he will be able to apply and use the terms "cosmopolitanism," "globalization" "colonialism," "patriotism," and "nationalism" to their proper context in modern Mediterranean history. S/he will be aware of the roles gender, identity and social cohesion have played in the development of the modern Arabic novel. Finally, s/he will have had an opportunity to develop research and writing skills at the university level.


Course Requirements: The grade for this course will be determined primarily through evaluation of the student's written projects for the course.

Writing Assignments:

 A short position paper (at least 2 pp. long) will be due tentatively on 23 January 2018). The topic of the paper will be: "Which was more influential in the Arab world prior to the end of WWI: the ideology of nationalism or the ideology of colonialism?" This paper will count for 5% of the final course grade.

A second short position paper (at least 3 pp. long) will be due tentatively on 6 February 2018. The topic of the paper will be: "How influential was the nationalist ideology of Pharaonism on the development of the modern Arabic novel and why?" This paper will count for 5% of the final course grade.

A third short position paper (at least 4 pp. long) will be due tentatively on 27 February 2018. The topic will be given in class on 13 February. This paper will count for 10% of the final course grade.


 A set of three questions (see attached handout for examples) will be due at the beginning of discussion about each of the following novels required for class reading (Midaq Alley, Men in the Sun, Season of Migration to the North and Woman at Point Zero). The questions will count for 30% of the total grade.

Exams: There will be one exam, a take-home final exam (tentatively due Friday 16 March 2018, 5:00 PM). Students will have the option to substitute (with the instructor’s permission, obtained at least two weeks in advance of the end of classes) a final paper (about 5-8 pages in length) for the take-home final exam. This paper will be due on the same day as the final exam. Those taking this course under the “530” number will be required to turn in a paper (of at least 10 pp.) instead of the take-home exam.

The Take-Home Final Exam or Paper will count for 40% of the final grade.

 The remaining 10% of the grade will be based on in-class participation. This means that you will be expected to have read the "Primary Reading" before coming to class, and do whatever other reading is necessary so that you can participate actively in the class discussions. Regular attendance records (according to University Regulations) may not be included in this portion of the grade, so it is up to the student to participate in the class discussion, in order to receive full credit for "class participation."

  Failure to turn in any assignments or take any tests on time will result in an automatic .3 deduction in the student's grade for that assignment or test. It is the student's responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted on time and in readable format to the instructor.

 The general policies about plagiarism in force at the University of Washington will be observed in this course.


Course Readings: The following books are required and copies have been ordered and should be available at the University Bookstore: Return of the Spirit by Tawfiq al-Hakim, Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, Men in the Sun by Ghassan Kanafani, Season of Migration to the North by Tayeb Salih, and Woman at Point Zero by Nawwal Saadawi

 A selection of translated texts (and other readings) will also be made available directly to students (by e-mail and on the Canvas course website) during the quarter. If you think you cannot receive these texts, please talk to the instructor individually as soon as possible, in order to make suitable arrangements so that you can get access to the texts.

"Primary" readings are from the required novel texts for the class. "Recommended" readings are for the most part available on reserve in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library, or as electronic books that can be accessed through the UW Libraries website. "Supplemental" readings will mostly be found in the Suzzallo/Allen library, either in the Reference area or the stacks. You should see the instructor as soon as possible if you have any difficulty obtaining one of these recommended or supplemental readings.

For Students With Special Needs: If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to the instructor as soon as possible so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class.

Classroom Courtesy: Since the consumption of food during class often interferes with class participation and is distracting to others, students are requested to avoid this unless they are prepared to share what they have brought with everyone. Your cooperation will be appreciated.

Laptop Computers: Laptop (or other communication devices) may be used in class with the instructor’s permission. They may not be used during tests.


Background Reading

 General: Many new and useful critical works about Arabic literature have become available in the last few years. One absolutely essential new resource for the course is The Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature (1998), ed. by Julie Scott Meisami and Paul Starkey. It is available in the Suzzallo reference section, PJ7510 E53 1998 and also through Google Books online. A second essential resource for our course will be Volume 6 (Middle Eastern Literature and Their Times) of the series World Literature and Its Times: Profiles of Notable Literary Works and the Historical Events That Influenced Them. This volume is not available online, but a copy of the text will be on 4-hour reserve in Odegaard (PJ 307 M67 2004), so that you can copy the relevant articles. Further relevant articles especially on Mahfouz and Tayyeb Salih can be found in vol. 2 (African Literature and Its Times) of this same series. It is permanently located in the Suzzallo Reference Stacks, Call Number PL8010 M65 2000.

 The Arabic Novel: There is still only one indispensable book for learning the history of the Arabic novel and that is Roger Allen's The Arabic Novel: An Historical and Critical Introduction (New York: Syracuse University Press, 1982). It has been recently updated and revised (1995). It is on reserve in Odegaard, Call Number: PJ7577 A4 1995. No other book has yet appeared in English that is as reliable and comprehensive an overview. Two other useful books that concentrate on the beginnings of fiction are Sabri Hafez's Genesis of Arabic Narrative Discourse, Call Number: PJ7538 H25 1993, and Matti Moosa's The Origins of Modern Arabic Fiction, Call Number PJ7577  M66  1997. A useful and thought-provoking examination of more recent Arabic novels (including many studied in this course) may be found in Muhsin Musawi, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel: Debating Ambivalence (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2003) Call Number PJ7572 N37 M87 2003.

 Nationalism: The most important introductory source on the development of nationalism as an ideology is: Eric T. Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780: Programme, Myth and Reality (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990). It is available online through the Suzzallo library website. Important for understanding the impact of nationalism on literature and culture is: Benedict Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983).Multiple copies are available in the UW Libraries and on-line through the UW Library website. For additional useful evaluations of the growth of nationalism as an ideology in the context of literature, see Nations and Nationalism, ed. Homi Bhabha (London, Routledge 1990). Available on reserve in Odegaard, PN56 N19 N38 1990. A more controversial, though nevertheless very provocative and useful, account of nationalism is found in Ernest Gellner's Nations and Nationalism (Ithaca: Cornell University Press,1983). There are multiple copies available from the UW Libraries. Call Number JC311 Q483 2008. Most recently, Craig Calhoun (former president of the Social Sciences Research Council) has collected a number of his most influential essays in Nations Matter: Culture, History and the Cosmopolitan Dream (London: Routledge, 2007) JC311 C285 2007.

Arab Nationalism: The indispensable overview of the rise of nationalism (and the impact of modernization on) the Arab world is still Albert Hourani's Arabic Thought in the Liberal Age: 1798-1939. No one can seriously study the 19th- and 20th-centuries in the Arab world without having read it. It is available (Call Number: JA84 A6 H6 1983) in the Suzzallo stacks or on line. For a more recent appreciative and perceptive reappraisal of the impact of Houraniâ' s work on modern studies of Arab nationalism , see Donald M. Reid in the International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 14.4 (November 1982): 541-57.

The historians Afaf (Lutfi al-Sayyid) Marsot (especially A Short History of Modern Egypt on reserve in Odegaard, Call Number DT95 S29 1985) and, more recently, Israel Gershoni and James Jankowski (especially Egypt, Islam and the Arabs: The Search for Egyptian Nationhood, 1900-1930 (Suzzallo Call Number DT107.8 G37 1987) and Redefining the Egyptian Nation: 1930-1945, Suzzallo Call Number 107.82 G43 1995), have produced the most highly regarded and frequently utilized accounts of Egyptian nationalism currently available. Individual books about the development of nationalism in other parts of the Arabic speaking world have yet to receive the same universal regard.

Colonialism: Accounts of British colonial policy, in particular, tend to still be very apologetic and thus are not very useful for reference or analysis. Probably the least biased is Lawrence James, Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1994).Call Number: DA16 J264 1994. The classic account of colonialism's impact on the Arab world is Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979). Call Number: DS12 S24 1979. But more useful as a general theoretical introduction to the relationship between colonialism and literature is: Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Post-Colonial Literatures (London: Routledge, 1989. You may also want to look at Muhsin Jasim al-Musawi, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel (2003) (in Suzzallo, PJ7572 N37 M87 2003). For anyone seriously interested in investigating the relationship between the Arab world and the West prior to the Napoleonic invasion of 1798, Peter Gran's The Islamic Roots of Capitalism should be required reading. Available from Suzzallo, Call Number:  DT97 G73 1979. 



Catalog Description: 
Examines how representative novels from the modern canon in Arabic have both endorsed and critiqued aspects of nationalism and colonialist ideology.
Last updated: 
August 2, 2019 - 9:21pm