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AUS Professor and novelist garners recognition for her research in Arabic and comparative literature, women's authorship and cultural exchange

AUS Professor and novelist garners recognition for her research in Arabic and comparative literature, women's authorship and cultural exchange

Monday, April 1, 2024/ Editor -  

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Sharjah, UAE, April 1, 2024 – Exploring the influences of Western literature on modern Arabic literary trends, cinematography in modern Arabic poetry and the question of authorship in Arab women’s literary production, Dr. Bouthaina Khaldi, Professor in Arabic and Translation Studies at American University of Sharjah (AUS), aims to unravel the intricate layers of cultural exchange and literary evolution by dedicating her recent research to exploring these three key areas.

A multidisciplinary scholar, Dr. Khaldi developed a research project from her invited talk “The Reception of Johann Wolfgang Goethe in the Arab World,” which she gave at the Global Weimar/Global Nahda symposium organized by Princeton University in Berlin. In this work, she argues that since the Nahḍa period (Arab Renaissance), modern Arabic literature and thought have been stimulated by a variety of Western cultural influences, most salient of which were French and English.

'An in-depth examination of the works of Nahda Arab intellectuals reveals their engagement with German literature through the intermediary channels of French and English literature and translation,' Dr. Khaldi explained. 'While existing scholarship has often focused on Goethe’s fascination with the literature and culture of ancient Arabia, my research has shifted the focus to Goethe’s impact on Arabic literary thought in the early 20th century.'

Her second project, which she developed after an invited talk she gave at Georgetown University on the poetic intersection between French poet, film director and painter Jean Cocteau and Iraqi poet Abd al-Wahhab al-Bayati, examines the influence of cinematic techniques, themes and visual storytelling elements in contemporary Arabic poetry. Dr. Khaldi argues that, by bringing elements of the screen to poetry, al-Bayati opens up a space of dialogue and negotiation not only between textual and visual arts, but also Arabic and Western poetry. Dr. Khaldi’s work in comparative literature and literary analysis had previously garnered recognition from Georgetown University’s Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies Elliot Colla, who described her comparative study of the Iraqi poetess Nazik al-Malaika and American poet Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry and poetics as “a real contribution to our understanding of modernism and poetics.”

In her third project, Dr. Khaldi expands on a keynote lecture she gave at Lisbon Consortium’s MA and PhD program entitled “Unveiling Pseudonymous Writing by Twentieth Century Arab Women,” which she was also invited to give at Columbia University. The research is part of her ongoing work on the role of Arab women in the literary salon culture and the epistolary art, which has resulted in the publication of two books: Egypt Awakening in the Early Twentieth Century: Mayy Ziyādah’s Intellectual Circles and The Implicit in Arab Women’s Epistolary Writing. The latter was longlisted for the Sheikh Zayed Book Award for Young Authors.

“I am expanding on the issue of authorship by studying the complex ways in which Arab, English, French and Persian women from different historical periods foregrounded this issue in their published writings. This research gives us insights into the diverse experiences, challenges and contributions of women writers in various cultural and linguistic contexts. It deepens not only our understanding of the complexities surrounding authorship, but also emphasizes the significance of women's voices in shaping literary discourse and challenging traditional notions of authorship and authority. By examining these cross-cultural perspectives, we can uncover common themes and unique insights that enrich our appreciation of women's literary achievements and their impact on broader literary traditions. Ultimately, this research contributes to a more inclusive and nuanced understanding of authorship and literature, highlighting the diverse voices and perspectives that have historically been marginalized or overlooked,” she said.

A novelist at heart, Dr. Khaldi was nominated for the Arabic Booker Prize in 2020 for her novel Ikhtibl (Madness). Her next creative writing project will be a collection of stories. Dr. Khaldi also entered the Guinness World Record for being part of the world’s largest simultaneous book signing ceremony during the 2019 Sharjah International Book Fair.

The Department of Translation and Arabic Studies at AUS fosters a rich environment for the study and appreciation of language, literature and cultural exchange. With a dedicated faculty of renowned scholars and practitioners, the department aims to equip students with the linguistic proficiency, cultural competency and critical thinking skills necessary to thrive in an interconnected world. To learn more, visit w.aus.edu/cas-ats.


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