Program in Comparative Literature

Tarek El-Ariss

Associate ProfessorPh.D - 2004, Cornell

Associate Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature
Tarek El-Ariss



Contemporary Arabic Literature, Film, and Media; Arabic popular culture and new literary genres; 19th- and 20th-century Arabic travel writing; Translation studies and Post-structuralism


Tarek El-Ariss's research interests include contemporary Arabic literature, visual culture, and new media; 18th- and 19th-century French and Arabic philosophy and travel writing; and literary theory. He is author of Trials of Arab Modernity: Literary Affects and the New Political (2013), and editor of the forthcoming MLA anthology, The Arab Renaissance: Literature, Culture, Media. He's associate editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature, and edits a series on literature in translation for the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the University of Texas Press entitled, Emerging Voices from the Middle East. His new book project examines new media’s effects on Arabic artistic and political practices by exploring the way that modes of confrontation, circulation, and exhibitionism shape contemporary writing practices and critiques of power.





C L 390 • Contemporary Literary Theory

34070 • Fall 2013
Meets T 500pm-800pm CAL 21

Where does a survey of contemporary literary theory begin and what does it consist of? The question itself, the task at hand, requires theorization. “Where to start and how to end” usher in a discussion of genealogy and progression, putting in question movement and linearity. It is with this very “putting in question,” then, that we begin, with Jonathan Culler’s theory—his trajectory and his take on the field. From this reflection we turn to dream and representation, language and fantasy, exploring their relation to writing, power, and subjectivity. Reading the unconscious in Freud and Lacan we explore that which conditions yet lies beyond the narrative of the self (subjectivity), there, at its origin. This elusive origin, however, is staged in the work of Derrida, who, through multiple ellipses and deconstructions undoes and unsettles the origin’s primacy and centrality, exposing its fissures and fragmentation.

In the spirit of the unsettling of center and periphery, conscious and unconscious, we turn to Foucault’s channeling of Nietzsche in order to bring in the rupture, the accidental, that which is suppressed from the narrative in order for the latter to unfold. The suppression is productive, as Foucault himself claims, of a discourse on the other—of the other as discourse. This production we explore in Said, Adorno, and Horkheimer, investigating their critique of the humanist tradition in Europe and its processes of othering from the 18th century onward.

In the same vein, discursive criticism has also engendered the body, performed according to Butler through mimesis and insubordination. Queer and feminist theory intervene at this level to further expose the psychoanalytic narrative and its normative assumptions. This exposure leads in the works of Cixous and Adnan to a “blowing up” of and in language, of the patriarchal sign and representation, of modes of erasure and violence, of speaking for and speaking about.

Against representation and the figurative, we engage works by Deleuze and Guattari as they read Kafka. To read for them is to follow traces, to capture murmurs and groans uttered by an insect-like creature with new consciousness. Georg Samsa’s transformation in the Metamorphosis is read in D/G’s as the framework for the notion of deterritorialization—a movement, a groaning, an exorcism, an unsettling of narrative and/as ideology against Freud’s Oedipus. The course returns elliptically, at the end, almost to where it started, only to bring in haunting and the state of the theoretical and colonial debt, back to Derrida and Haneke, to European literature and film. We also return, by the same gesture, to the state of the literary in theory first discussed in Culler’s book, and ask: What haunts the field of comparative literature today? Through what currents and trends and fissures and crises does it continue to be refigured and reimagined?

C L 386 • Arabic Writ In The Virtual Age

33805 • Spring 2012
Meets M 300pm-600pm MEZ 1.118
(also listed as ARA 384C)

In this graduate seminar we will explore the writings of a new generation of Arab authors. Students will trace this literary development to social and political struggles within the Arab world, the advent of Satellite TV and the Internet, and the effects of globalization, more generally. We will raise the following questions: What forms of literary consciousness arise from these new texts? What are their relations to Western cultural productions on the one hand, and to the canon of Arabic letters, on the other? What new multilingual and interactive domains shape and define this new literature? In what way do new technologies affect the way we tell stories and produce narratives? In turn, how do these new narratives transform and express new configurations of subjectivity, ethics, community, and the political body? We will read works by writers such Youssef Rakha, Ahmad Alaidy, Seba al-Herz, Khalid Khalifeh, Rabih Jaber, and Hamdi Abu Golayyel.

Graduate Supervision


2015   Noah Simblist, Art and Art History (co-chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Digging through Time: Psycogeographies of Occupation."
Position: Southern Methodist University, Meadows School of the Arts (Associate Professor).

2014   Michal Raizen, Comparative Literature, Arabic/Hebrew (co-chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Ecstatic Feedback: Toward an Ethics of Audition in the Contemporary Literary Arts of the Mediterranean."
Placement: Ohio Wesleyan University, Department of Comparative Literature (tenure-track).

2013   W. Andrew Paul, Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic/Hebrew (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Border Fiction: Fracture and Contestation in Post-Oslo Palestinian Culture."
Placement: University of Tennessee at Knoxville, Department of Modern Languages and Literatures (tenure-track).

2013     Johanna Sellman, Comparative Literature, Arabic/French/Swedish (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "The Biopolitics of Belonging: Europe in Post-Cold War Arabic Literature of Migration."
Placement: Ohio State University, Faculty Librarian of Middle Eastern & Islamic Studies, (tenure-track).

2012     Benjamin Koerber, Middle Eastern Studies/Arabic (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "The Aesthetics and Politics of Rumor: The making of Egyptian Public Culture."
Placement: Rutgers University, Department of Africa, Middle Eastern, and South Asian Studies (tenure-track).

2011     Zeina Halabi, Department of Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic (chair of dissertation committee).
Dissertation: "Writing Melancholy: The Death of the Intellectual in Modern Arabic Literature."
Placement: University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, Department of Asian Studies (tenure-track).