Skip to main content


Celebrating Recent Work by Muhsin Al-Musawi

New Books in the Arts and Sciences

dateFebruary 6, 2023 timeMonday, 6:15pm EST location The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University locationVirtual Event
  • Department of Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies(MESAAS)
  • Office of the Divisional Deans in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences
  • The Society of Fellows and Heyman Center for the Humanities
email address [email protected]
  • Free and open to the public
  • Registration required. See details.
Cover of Arabic Disclosures: The Postcolonial Autobiographical Atlas by Muhsin J. al-Musawi

Arabic Disclosures: The Postcolonial Autobiographical Atlas
by Muhsin J. al-Musawi

Arabic Disclosures presents readers with a comparative analysis of Arabic postcolonial autobiographical writing.

In Arabic Disclosures, Muhsin J. al-Musawi investigates the genre of autobiography within the modern tradition of Arabic literary writing from the early 1920s to the present. Al-Musawi notes in the introduction that the purpose of this work is not to survey the entirety of autobiographical writing in modern Arabic but rather to apply a rigorously identified set of characteristics and approaches culled from a variety of theoretical studies of the genre to a particular set of autobiographical works in Arabic, selected for their different methodologies, varying historical contexts within which they were conceived and written, and the equally varied lives experienced by the authors involved.

The book begins in the larger context of autobiographical space, where the theories of Bourdieu, Bachelard, Bakhtin, and Lefebvre are laid out, and then considers the multiple ways in which a postcolonial awareness of space has impacted the writings of many of the authors whose works are examined. Organized chronologically, al-Musawi begins with the earliest modern example of autobiographical work in Ṭāhā Ḥusayn’s book, translated into English as The Stream of Days. Al-Musawi studies some of the major pioneers in the development of modern Arabic thought and literary expression: Jurjī Zaydān, Mīkḫāˀīl Nuˁaymah, Aḥmad Amīn, Salāmah Mūsā, Sayyid Quṭb, and untranslated works by the prominent critic and scholar Ḥammādī Ṣammūd, the novelist ʿĀliah Mamdūḥ, and others. He also examines the autobiographies of a number of women, including Nawāl al-Saʿdāwī and Fadwā Ṭūqān, and fiction writers. The book draws a map of Arab thought and culture in its multiple engagements with other cultures and will be useful for scholars and students of comparative literature, Arabic studies, and Middle Eastern studies, intellectual thought, and history.

This event will be in person at the Heyman Center and live-streamed online. Please register for both in-person and virtual attendance via the link.

Please email [email protected] to request disability accommodations. Advance notice is necessary to arrange for some accessibility needs.

About the Author

Muhsin J. al-Musawi is a professor of classical and modern Arabic literature, and comparative and cultural studies at Columbia University. A renowned scholar and literary critic, his teaching and research interests span several periods and genres. Professor al-Musawi is the author of thirty-nine books (including 6 novels) and over sixty scholarly articles. Professor al-Musawi is the recipient of numerous awards and honors, including the highly prestigious 2002 Owais Award in Literary Criticism, the 2018 Kuwait Prize in Arabic Language and Literature, King Faisal Prize in Arabic Literature in English, Jan.2022, and Sheikh Zayed Book Award, May 2022.

About the Speakers

Roger Allen is an English scholar of Arabic literature. He was the first student at Oxford University to obtain a PhD degree in modern Arabic literature, which he did under the supervision of Muhammad Mustafa Badawi. His doctoral thesis was on Muhammad al-Muwaylihi’s narrative Hadith Isa ibn Hisham (Isa Ibn Hisham’s Tale), and was later published as a book titled A Period of Time (1974, 1992). At the request of Dr Gaber Asfour, the Director-General of the Supreme Council for Culture in Egypt, he later prepared an edition of the complete works of Muhammad al-Muwaylihi (2002), and of his father, Ibrahim al-Muwaylihi (2007).

Hamid Dabashi is the Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. He received a dual Ph.D. in Sociology of Culture and Islamic Studies from the University of Pennsylvania in 1984, followed by a postdoctoral fellowship at Harvard University. He wrote his doctoral dissertation on Max Weber’s theory of charismatic authority with Philip Rieff (1922-2006), the most distinguished Freudian cultural critic of his time. Professor Dabashi has taught and delivered lectures in many North American, European, Arab, and Iranian universities.

Madeleine Dobie teaches French and Comparative Literature at Columbia University. She is the author of Foreign Bodies: Gender, Language and Culture in French Orientalism (2001), Trading Places: Colonization and Slavery in Eighteenth-Century French Culture (2010), Relire Mayotte Capécia: Une femme des Antilles dans l’espace colonial français (2012), and articles on the Thousand and One Nights, the field of Mediterranean Studies, and the contemporary literature of migration. She is currently writing a book on Algerian culture in the wake of the “black decade” of the 1990s.

Yasmine Khayyat is an assistant professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature at Rutgers University. Her forthcoming book titled War Remains: Ruination and Resistance in Lebanon (Syracuse University Press) examines the figuration of the ruin as a site of resistance and potentiality in modern Lebanese novels, poetry, and sites of memory. While a doctoral student at Columbia University, she was part of the Engendering Archives Working Group Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference (CCASD).