Professor of Comparative Literature and Near & Middle Eastern Civilizations
My work focuses on modern Arabic literature and visual culture. My research has explored the relationship between aesthetics and politics, the emergence and transformations of new genres and styles in modern Arabic prose and poetry, and the intersections of textual, material, and visual forms in cultural production. I have published articles and book chapters on modernist Arabic poetry, gender and narrative, post-war Iraqi fiction, the early Arabic novel, and modernist architecture in the Middle East. My book project, Aesthetics of Arab Modernity: Literature and Urbanism in Colonial Iraq (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press) examines narrative, poetry, and the visual arts in early to mid-20th century colonial Baghdad. In my book, I show how the demands of anti-colonial political resistance conditioned a range of aesthetic commitments and experiments in literature and the fine arts. I frame Baghdad in this period as an uneven colonial urban space that incubated and mediated new aesthetic forms rooted in the experiences of colonial modernity—expressed most explicitly through narratives that reflect and reproduce the urban/rural divide, the tastes and values of an emerging middle-class sensibility, and the intersections of anti-colonial nationalism and Marxism. I show the ways that the colonial aesthetics produced in this period were stylistically and formally enmeshed such that realist and modernist experimentation comingled. I remain interested in how transformations and inventions of literary and artistic form provide us with windows into the colonial subject’s encounter with modernity. Other research has increasingly turned to visual cultures in the Middle East, in particular the history of modern painting and the turn to abstraction in modern Arab art.
Teaching and Research Interests:
Modern Arabic literature (novel, poetry) and visual cultures; literary theory; global modernisms; realism; aesthetics and politics; postcolonial gothic fiction; urban studies and architecture
Recent and Forthcoming Publications:
Aesthetics of Arab Modernity: Literature and Urban Form in Colonial Iraq (forthcoming, Cambridge University Press)
Refereed Articles and Chapters:
“Baudelaire in Baghdad: Modernism, the Body, and Husayn Mardan’s Poetics of the Self” International Journal of Middle East Studies, 45 (2013): 313–329.
“The Figure of the Prostitute, Tajdid, and Masculinity in Anti-Colonial Literature of Iraq” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, Vol. 11:1, (March 2015): 42-62.
“Writing the Dismembered Nation: The Aesthetics of Horror in Iraqi Narratives of War” Arab Studies Journal (Vol. XXIII, No. 1), Fall 2015: 184-209.
“Literature as Archive: Writing Literary History as Cultural History” Arab Studies Journal, (Vol. XXIII, No. 1), Fall 2015: 249-251.
“The Arabic Novel in Iraq” in The Oxford Handbook of Arab Novelistic Traditions, Ed. Waïl Hassan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017): 247-264
“Modernism on the Margins: Le Corbusier’s Baghdad Gymnasium and the Politics of Discovery” in Aesthetic Practices and Spatial Configuraions: Historical and Transregional Perspectives, Eds. Hannah Baader, Martina Becker, Niharika Dinkar (Bielefeld: Transcript-Verlag, 2017, In Press)