Join us for this year’s conference Thresholds to Arabic Literary Criticism, 14-16 December 2022. 

Preliminary Virtual Discussion Panel: Arabic Literary Theory: Prospects and Limits, Friday, March 19, 2021
First Session: *December 15-17, 2021, Columbia University
Due to the ongoing pandemic the Second Session in Paris will be announced at a later date.

*dates subject to change due to current health pandemic

Made possible by a 2019 pledged sponsorship, this conference was organized with Committee of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award

Conference Directors/Investigators [Organizing Team]:

Conference Directors/Investigators [Organizing Team]:
Muhsin al-Musawi, Professor, MESAAS, Columbia University
Ali Bin Tamim
, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Arabic Language Center (ALC)
Lydia H. Liu, Wun Tsun Tam Professor in the Humanities
Chiara Fontana, Research Fellow, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.
Elizabeth M. Holt, Associate Professor of Arabic; Director, Middle Eastern Studies, Bard College
Tarek El Ariss, Professor and Chair of Middle Eastern Studies at Dartmouth
Gonzalo Fernández Parrilla, Professor of Arabic Language and Literature, Universidad Autonoma de Madrid
Nizar Hermes, Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Virginia
Rebecca Johnson, Associate Professor of English and the Humanities, Director of the Program in Middle East and North African Studies, Northwestern University.
Bilal Orfali, Chairman, Professor, and Sheikh Zayed Chair of Arabic and Islamic Studies, American University Beirut

Conference Proceedings Investigators:
Sarah R. bin Tyeer, Assistant Professor, Columbia University
Lara Harb, Associate Professor, Princeton University
Boutheina Khaldi, Professor, American University of Sharjah

The purpose of this conference is to engage with formative literary beginnings in Arabic and their evolution or regression over time. It also explores 300 years of Orientalist writing, and philological inquiry as pertaining to literary theory. Notably, engaging with the challenges of mapping, reconstructing, and studying varied sets of Arabic literary theoretical frameworks from the pre-modern era up to the present, the conference invites scholars to explore a plethora of thematic issues tied to a still-ongoing attempt to identify cross-temporal and trans-local conceptualizations and terms for a genealogy of Arabic literary theory.

Among the conference concerns are the following: the powerful presence of the qaīdah, tarassul [epistolary art] as literature, narrative genesis, plagiarism, philological investigations, the birth of the Arabic novel, genealogies of story-telling, the dispute with al-mudath and al-mudathūn, the rise of al-badī‛ compositional style and the resulting badī‛iyyah, rhetoric and its multiple dimensions, identity, and social media, cyberspace literary explorations, the visual in writing, spatial narrative forms, Material and Immaterial cultures, deviation and dissent, Arabs and their Other, exilic poetics and anīn, self-narrative and biography. Thus, while focusing on the formation, transformation, re-organization and enduring legacy of pre-modern literary conceptualizations across the Arabic literary continuum, the conference approaches modernist literary explorations as invitations to the study of paradigmatic shifts in Arabic literary theory.

Participants are welcome to approach literary texts as “insiders,” thus also bridging the gap between literary, social, linguistic, and semantic studies. With some focus on modernity and its byways, the conference aspires to cement a dialogue between ancient and modern epistemic systems. The whole conversation should be rooted in theory. The Conference requests active participation, polished papers, and salient contribution to this field as inspired by formations and transformation in Arabic literary production over time.

In this sense, the conference encourages scholars to engage with a compound of constitutive questions as applied to significant fields of Arabic literary knowledge. Points of inquiry include but are not restricted to:

  • Genesis of Cross-temporal Arabic Literary Frameworks and the Resulting Development of Literary Canonizations: thematic investigations in this field will hopefully provide an accurate examination of the influential role of the qaīdah within past and contemporary corpora as well as valuable insights into the narration genesis and the evolution of tarassul(epistolography) as literature. Also, inquiries could be extended to the birth of the Arabic novel, and genealogies of story-telling as well as the contemporary development of cyberspace literature and the relevance of the visual within the Arabic literary tradition.
  • Reflections on Compositional Styles’ Renewal Across Experimentation and Literary Mannerism: suggested investigations could be focused on the rise of al-badī‛ compositional style and the resulting badī‛iyyah, the emerge of al-mudath and al-mudathūn, Arabic rhetoric and its multiple dimensions as well as the rise of the literary writing through social media
  • The Construction of Self-centered Literary Imaginaries and the Annihilation of Dhāt (the self): taking into account how these tendencies are arguably conceived as alternately and intimately connected frameworks within the cross-temporal conceptualization of Arabic literary writing, inquiries in this field address personally centered literary genres such as self-narrative and biography as well as expressions of collective deviation and dissent in literature or the exilic memento in contemporary corpora.
  • The Challenge of Modernities: This track is to interrogate recent explorations in Arab modernities, in relation to global and particularly Afro-Asian and Latino, experimentation. The question of postcolonial discourse , cultural studies, and post-industrialist and neoliberal incursions is to be staunchly argued as shown in war, prison and exilic narrative and poetry and poetics.


 The Heyman Center for the Humanities, Room B-101
74 Morningside Drive
New York, NY, 10027
  (212) 854-4541
  (212) 854-3099