[C5040] Reading Middle Eastern Literatures Comparatively

Created by Roberta Micallef
Tuesday, 11/21/17 10:30am


Reading Middle Eastern Literatures Comparatively

In a particularly vibrant 2014-15 state of the discipline report in Comparative Literature, comparatists questioned the current relationship between comparative literature and non-western literary traditions. This conversation will explore what a comparative study of Middle Eastern literary traditions means and how scholars engaged in this academic enterprise might benefit from focusing on intraregional traditions, intersections, and themes; indeed, this work extends the continuing debate on moving away from adopting European models as default frameworks for literary analysis. We problematize the terms "comparative literature" and "Middle East," in addition to the assumptions that undergird what constitutes a "literary tradition," by exploring regional, indigenous terminology and concepts. We ask whether discussing premodern epics or contemporary novels, what kinds of new frames could we uncover and what new vocabulary could we potentially build through our comparative questioning? Furthermore, given that many authors from the Middle East, like many of their fellow citizens, have multiple physical and psychological homes or no home at all, how do these authors complicate our notions of national identity on which we base our area studies? Elif Shafak, a Turkish novelist, writes in both English and Turkish depending on her subject matter. Marjane Satrapi, the creator of a series of graphic novels with an Iranian protagonist, first wrote in French and later directed an English language film. She now refers to herself as an Iranian French author. What do these multi-rooted, multi-located identities signal for the discipline of comparative literature and area studies? How do women novelists, in particular, challenge notions of nation, identity, and the realist genre in the Middle East? What do contemporary works from the Middle East have to show us about this new era of global literatures, created by national traumas and historical conflict, and having resulted in a kind of new world author and citizen? Those leading this conversation will consider contemporary literary and visual texts from the Middle East but which were produced by authors or directors who produce work in multiple languages or are connected to multiple states, to probe these questions and open the discussion through intraregional exploration. We hope to extend this critical conversation to the next year to include scholars working on other mediums, genres, and backgrounds.






Persis Karim

(San Francisco State University)
Persis Karim is the Neda Nobar Chair of the newly-established Center for Iranian Diaspora Studies at San Francisco State University. Her research focuses on Iran, literature and culture of the Iranian Diaspora, and comparative and world literature. She...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Roberta Micallef

(Boston University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer;

Hulya Adak

(Sabanci University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ceylan Ceyhun Arslan

(KoƧ University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;