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

Winter 2022
TTh 4:30pm - 5:50pm / DEN 111
Section Type:
Joint Sections:
NEAR E 330 A
Syllabus Description (from Canvas):


Colonialism, Nationalism and

the Modern Arabic Novel

(1880-1975 C.E.)

Winter Quarter 2022

Instructor: Terri DeYoung                                                                       Class Location: On-line, or in Denny 111

Office: 246 Denny Hall                                                                           Class Time: TTh 4:30-5:50

                                                                                                                 SLN Number: 18163 (NE 330)

                                                                                                                                        22096 (NE530)

Office Hours: on line: by appointment through e-mail

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, students will know the canon of modern Arabic novels. They will know what the major events are in 19th- and 20th-century Western colonial and Arab national history. In addition, they will be able to apply and use the terms “cosmopolitanism,” “globalization” “colonialism,” “imperialism,” “patriotism,” “nationalism,”  and “self-determination” in their proper context in modern Mediterranean history. They will be aware of the roles gender, identity and social cohesion have played in the development of the modern Arabic novel. Finally, they 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 Monday 10 January 2022 at midnight). The topic of the paper will be: “Why am I taking this course?” This paper will count for 5% of the total course grade.

                A second short position paper (at least 2 pp. long) will be due tentatively on Friday 21 January 2022 at midnight). The topic of the paper will be either: “Which ideology was more influential on Jurji Zaydan’s decision to write historical novels: nationalism or colonialism?” or “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 total course grade.

                A third short position paper (at least 3 pp. long) will be due tentatively on Monday 14 February 2022 at midnight. 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 7% of the total course grade.


If you are dissatisfied with your grade on any of these writing assignments, you may correct the marked passages and comments on the text Prof. DeYoung returns to you, and re-submit the essay for a higher grade. March 11, 2022 is the last date on which re-submitted essays will be accepted.




                 A set of three questions will be due the day before the beginning of discussion about each of the following novels required for class reading (The Caliph’s Sister, Return of the Spirit, Midaq Alley, and Season of Migration to the North). A handout with sample questions will be distributed in the class and posted on Canvas by 7 January (Friday).The questions will count for 33% of the total grade.



Exams: There will be one exam, a take-home final exam (due Friday 18 March 2022, at midnight). Undergraduate 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 (a paper is required for 530 students). This paper will be due on the same day as the final exam. The Take-Home Final Exam or Paper will count for 40% of the final grade. A set of tentative questions for the Take-Home Final Exam will be introduced and discussed during the last two weeks of class.


All of these assignments should be posted to Canvas or sent as attachments to Prof. DeYoung’s email account (


Graduate (530) Requirements

                Those taking this course under the “530” number will be required to make at least one presentation to the class of 15-20 minutes about a major novelist or political figure who influenced the development of the Arabic novel. They will also be required to turn in a paper (of at least 10 pp.) instead of the take-home exam.

                Like the undergraduates, the graduate students will also need to turn in the “three questions” assignments (28% of the total grade) and the 2nd  through 4th position papers (22% of the final grade)

For students completing the course under the 530 number, the presentation will count for 5% of the total grade and the paper will count for 35%.


                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 Readings” 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 for pick-up at the University Bookstore (206-634-3400) or they can be ordered from the Bookstore by mail (free shipping). They are also all in print and may be ordered through various online websites.


The Caliph’s Sister by Jurji Zaydan, trans. Issa Boullata. It is also available on Amazon as a Kindle book).

Return of the Spirit by Tawfiq al-Hakim, trans. William Hutchins (available on Amazon as a Kindle).

Midaq Alley by Naguib Mahfouz, trans. Trevor Le Gassick (available as a Kindle and on-line at the UW Library)  

Season of Migration to the North by Al-Tayeb Salih, trans. Denys Johnson-Davies (available as a Kindle and on-line at the UW Library),

Woman at Point Zero by Nawal El-Saadawi, trans. Sharif Hatatah (available as a Kindle and on-line at the UW Library),


                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 make an appointment by email to 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 on the weekly assignments lists are from the required novels or other required texts for the class (available on Canvas). “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, online or in the stacks. You should see the instructor as soon as possible if you have any difficulty obtaining one of these recommended or supplemental readings.



Course Information & Online Resources


Access to the class: You will need to make arrangements to have access to our course Canvas website: and to our virtual meeting space which will be conducted via Zoom Video Conferencing . You will also need to have access to a camera and audio on your computer in order to participate in the sessions.

Your instructor will be distributing a conference ID which will allow you to join our online sessions TTh 4:30-5:50. Access to both platforms (Canvas and Zoom) will be necessary for completing homework assignments and for earning class participation points.


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.


Religious Accommodation starting in Autumn 2019, the University of Washington will be implementing the following new policy about arrangements for religious observances:


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

More information on the policy is available on the webpage for the Office of the University Registrar.


Classroom Courtesy: In an online course, our communication will be visible to all. For private communication, you should use individual email or send a message to the instructor on Canvas. You should log in to class on time. Test your camera and audio prior to the session. Please do not attend online lessons in your pajamas or while in bed.

It is better not to have private conversations not relevant to the course content (everyone can hear what you are saying).

 Since the consumption of food during class often interferes with class participation and is distracting to others, you are requested to avoid this. You are welcome to drink during the class. Staying hydrated is important to everyone. Your cooperation with these requests will be appreciated


Communications Devices: Please do not use cell phones (or other communications devices) for making calls while logged into Zoom. If you must take a call, please log out. As a general rule you should turn phones off to minimize disturbance.


Class Breaks. Whenever possible, there will be a break of approximately 10 minutes halfway through the class lectures. This will be an opportunity for students to conduct any personal business necessary outside of the Zoom learning environment




Recommendations: Professor DeYoung will be happy to write a recommendation for any student who receives a 4.0 in this course or any other of her courses.


Exam Comments: If you would like to have your Final Exam questions (or your paper) returned to you (with comments), please leave off a hard copy, with a stamped, self-addressed envelope in Professor DeYoung’s box in the NELC Main Office (Denny Hall), or make arrangements to pick them up in Autumn or Summer Quarter 2022.





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. This resource is more useful for the study of modern Arabic literature than the Encyclopedia of Islam, which, until recently, did not include twentieth-century authors. A second essential resource for our course is volume 2 of Essays in Arabic Literary Biography, 1850-1950 ed. Roger M.A. Allen. It contains many lengthy, comprehensive essays on major intellectual figures in the early modern Arab world, a number of whom who had a major impact on the development of the modern novel. An older, but still useful, resource is 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 is available in Odegaard Undergraduate Library (PJ 307 M67 2004), so that you can copy the relevant articles. Further relevant articles from this series—especially on Naguib Mahfouz, Nawal El Saadawi, and Tayyib 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 provides that is as reliable and comprehensive an overview of the field. Two other useful books—that concentrates 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. In 2017, Oxford University Press published a new, comprehensive guide to the history of the Arabic novel: The Oxford Handbook of Arab Novelistic Traditions, ed. Waïl S. Hassan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), Call Number: PJ7571 O94 2017 (available on line). It is divided into two sections: chapters dealing with different aspects of the historical development of narrative prose in Arabic that contributed to the development of the novel in Arabic (by important literary critics in the field) and surveys of the emergence of the novel form in Arabic worldwide. You may read a review of the book by Professor DeYoung in the Review of Middle East Studies 53.2 (December 2019): 362-367.

                Nationalism: At the turn of the new millennium, many leading Western intellectuals believed that the importance of nationalism was fading and would be replaced by an emphasis on globalization and cosmopolitanism as ideologies. This has proved not to be the case, as demonstrated by the popularity of Yuval Noah Harari’s writings and lectures on the enduring impact of nationalism in modern discourse. A number of these lectures are available on YouTube.

                 The most important introductory sources on the development of nationalism as an ideology is still: 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 Nation and Narration, ed. Homi Bhabha (London, Routledge 1990). Call Number: 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) Call Number: 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 online. This book is well supplemented by the studies in Islam in European Thought. Call Number: DS61.9 E85 H68. For a recent appreciative and perceptive reappraisal of the impact of Hourani’s work on modern studies of Arab nationalism ,see Donald H. 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 available on line) and Redefining the Egyptian Nation: 1930-1945, Call Number DT 107.82 G43 1995 (on reserve in Odegaard), 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. A recent example of this problem is Nigel Biggar’s well-funded 2017 project “Ethics and Empire” (for link, click here), which elicited a vigorous protest by a number of other faculty at Oxford University. The project remains suspended, following the institutional closure of Oxford during the pandemic. It is uncertain whether it will resume, but its very existence shows something about the state of the discipline.

                Probably the least biased general introduction to both the achievements and flaws of British colonialism is Lawrence James, Rise and Fall of the British Empire (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1994), many copies available in the Suzzallo Library stacks. Call Number: DA16 J264 1994. A video introduction to the period of the high watermark of British colonialism (including its initial impact on the Ottoman Empire and the Arab world), extensively advised by James, is PBS’s Queen Victoria’s Empire: The Moral Crusade available on YouTube. If you are unfamiliar with the major players in nineteenth-century British colonial politics and their motives, this is an ideal introduction.

                The classic account of colonialism’s impact on the Arab world is Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Vintage, 1979). Call Number: DS12 S24 1979. Frantz Fanon’s books Black Skins, White Masks (GN645 F313 1991) and The Wretched of the Earth (DT33 F313 1963) are also relevant. 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). Call Number PR9080 A85 2006, also available online. Homi Bhabha’s The Location of Culture is also finally beginning to receive the recognition it deserves as a register of the psychological and cultural impacts of colonial policies. Call number: PN761 H43 1994 It is also available online through the Suzzallo Library webpage. For a general introduction to the history of the relationship between different parts of the Islamic world and the West in the nineteenth century, Roger Owen’s The Middle East in the World Economy 1800-1914 (I.B Tauris, 2005). It's very comprehensive and well-organized index makes it valuable as a reference work. Call Number: HC410.7 O94. 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.

Last updated:
May 28, 2024 - 11:09 pm