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Kamran Scot Aghaie, Chair CAL 528 | 204 W 21st St F9400 | Austin, TX 78712-1029 • 512-471-3881

Tarek El-Ariss

Associate Professor Ph.D - 2004, Cornell

Associate Professor and DMES Graduate Adviser
Tarek El-Ariss



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 the 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 modes of confrontation, circulation, and exhibitionism shape contemporary writing practices and critiques of power.



Contemporary Arabic Literature, Film, and Media; Arabic popular culture and new literary genres; 18th- and 19th-century travel writing; Post-structuralism and Affect Theory

ARA 360L • Sci-Fi/Utopia In Arab Culture

41515 • Fall 2014
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 1.122
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If you have ever been to Egypt, it’s likely that you have heard the expression bash muhandis or ya handasa, literally meaning “Architect Pasha” or “Engineer Pasha.” This title is more important than those of doctor, general, and perhaps even president. What is it about the architect, builder, or engineer that captures so powerfully Egyptian and Arab imagination? In what way can one explain the primacy of this profession in bestowing respect and honor beyond its work context? What does it mean to build or imagine a new society or a new future? How could building also be used for purposes of suppression, separation, and confinement? Conducted in Arabic, this interdisciplinary course traces the notion of muhandiss (engineer, architect) to the Pharaohs, builders of the pyramids, but also to the French Saint-Simonian engineers who built the Suez Canal and the infrastructure of modern Egypt in the 19th century. The course will argue that the order of architects, which has given rise to Free Masonry and ample conspiracy theories surrounding it, is intimately tied to a utopian conception of the state and society. This conception has seen its dystopian moment with the 9/11 engineers (including Mohammed Atta) who planned and conducted the attacks on New York and Washington DC in the name of a larger if not divine architectural scheme. The discourse on “building” here becomes tied to terror and fundamentalism, transforming the builder into destroyer.

This course approaches engineering and building both as profession and as utopia for a new social and political order in the Arab world. Expressed in specific projects such as Solidere in Beirut, these schemes are also imagined in Sci Fi and futuristic literature and film. We will read selections from Abd al-Rahman al-Munif’s Cities of Salt, Sophia al-Maria’s The Girl who Fell to Earth, Noura Noman’s Ajwan, Khaled Tawfiq’s Utopia, and Arabian Nights (“Julnar the Sea-Born,” a precursor to the myth of Atlantis). We will also examine the question of utopia in the philosophical writings of Al-Farabi (The Virtuous City) and Francis Fathallah Marrash (Forest of Truth), and in films by Larissa Sansour, Ali Cherri, Simone Bitton, and Joanna Hajithomas and Khalil Joreige.Texts & Grading

To be determined by instructor.

ARA 360L • Arabic Voices: Poetry To Rap

41875 • Spring 2014
Meets TTH 1100am-1230pm MEZ 1.208
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Poetry is associated with the rise of Arabic literature and language. Pre-Islamic and Abbasid odes are traditionally viewed as the purest expressions of the Arab cultural ethos. Some considered the Quran itself poetry when it was first revealed. This poetic tradition went through various transformation with modernist aesthetics in the 1950s and 1960s, and anti-colonial and anti-authoritarian struggles throughout the 20th and into the 21st century. In this course, we will focus on contemporary poetry, specifically examining popular poetry, graphic poetry, rap, slam, hip-hop, and twitter as a poetic genre. We will investigate crossings between contemporary and classical forms, but also crossings between Arabic and non-Arabic genres. We will analyze new poetic forms expressed in a variety of dialectics and cultural contexts, addressing the role of music, digital technology, and political developments in shaping new poetry. We will examine the importance of a new media culture with such TV Shows as Sha‘ir al-Million (Million’s poet) in popularizing new trends and reviving old ones. We will read works by Ahmad Fuad Najm, Mahmoud Darwish, and Walid Taher, and watch performances by Omar Offendum, DAM, Katibeh Khamseh, El-Rass, Sultana, and Tuffar. Conducted in Arabic, the students will be exposed to various texts in MSA and dialects from across the Arab world.

ARA 384C • Translation: Theory & Practice

41965 • Spring 2014
Meets T 500pm-800pm CAL 422
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Tarjama, which means “translation” in Arabic, is not Arabic at the origin. In fact, when searching for this word in the old Arabic lexicons, we only find the verb tarjam (to translate) and turjman (translator), but not tarjama (translation). This word, which seems to have lost its origin, is never one with itself, complete, or whole. It is as if something about translation, from the beginning, is elusive, in motion in between subject (translator) and verb (to translate). And even when we find the word in Arabic, it is often in its plural form, as in tarajim (translations), which also means biographies, interpretations, and life events. So what about this word, “translation,” that never reveals its origin? Is it of the outcome of a primordial act of violence that needs to be veiled and suppressed?

This course explores the practice and theory of translation through Arabic and European philosophical and literary texts. It starts with the different understandings of tarjama in Arabic from classical sources through Nahda and contemporary contexts. Situating this trajectory in relation to European theories of translation, we will explore the way translation is fundamentally tied to an act of reading and analysis that conceals meaning and difference at the same time. We will address contemporary translation in the Arab world, exploring prize politics and scandals, methods and topics. Literary analysis and translation are fundamental components of this course, which allows students to activate the theoretical models introduced.

We will read Hadith, Ibn Manzur, Abdel-Rahman al-Jabarti, Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq, Walter Benjamin, George Steiner, Jacques Derrida, Sandra Berman, Marilyn  Booth, Lisa Suheir Majaj, Lawrence Venuti, and Emily Apter.

ARA 384C • Refig Loss Contemp Arab Lit

41800 • Fall 2013
Meets M 300pm-600pm CAL 422
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Starting with an overview of representations of loss in classical Arabic literature, this course, conducted in Arabic, lays the theoretical foundations for reading loss in contemporary texts. Incorporating Arab and Western frameworks, we will investigate representations of death, both material and metaphorical, as we interrogate categories of language and memory in literature and film. We will explore the manifestation of loss as a repression of the Arabic language due to the experience of exile and separation. We will also extend the concept of loss to the cultural and political realms in order to examine literary lamentations of Arab dispossession and humiliation following military and ideological defeats in the second half of the twentieth century. We will analyze discourses on the Revolution and Pan-Arabism and read texts and watch films that problematically stage loss as constitutive of Arab subjectivity following 1967. Finally, we will situate this investigation in relation to current development in the Arab world, examining alternative configurations of Arab subjectivity. We will read literary works by ‘Abd al-Raḥman al-Munif, Hoda Barakat, Elyas Khuri, Ḥalim Barakat, Youssef Idris, Ghassan Kanafani, and Assia Djebar and examine theoretical material and criticism by Sigmund Freud, Moneera al-Ghadeer, Jacques Derrida, Ann Cvetkevitch, and Ella Shohat.

ARA 360L • The Arab Spring

41190 • Spring 2012
Meets TTH 1230pm-200pm SAC 5.102
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Through films, music, literature, and historical and political writings and internet sites, this interdisciplinary course examines what has come to be known as “The Arab Spring,” namely the social and political upheavals and revolutions that gripped the Arab world  starting with Tunisia in December 2010. Engaging definition and theories of revolution in the Arabic context, this course will examine its recent manifestation in social, political, artistic, musical, and technological contexts. The students and I will focus on the relation between new media and activism and examine the way Satellite TV and the Internet have paved the way for a radical change in the Arab world. Conducted in Arabic, the students will be exposed to various Arabic texts from street signs to tweets in MSA and dialects from across the Arab world. Conducted in Arabic. 


ARA 384C • Arabic Writ In The Virtual Age

41255 • Spring 2012
Meets M 300pm-600pm MEZ 1.118
(also listed as C L 386 )
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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.

ARA 360L • Lebanon: Formatn/Transformatn

41170 • Fall 2010
Meets MW 330pm-500pm MEZ 1.206
(also listed as MES 323K )
show description

Through historical and political writings, literature, music, and blogs, this course will examine the phenomenon of “The Arab Spring” that swept many countries in the Arab world starting in December 2010. The course will analyze the root causes of the revolutions and popular movements that created this “Spring” and examine the political, social, and cultural developments that occurred in their wake. The course will place special emphasis on examining the role that the Internet and Satellite TV played in paving the way for this phenomenal change in the Arab world. The course will be conducted entirely in Arabic and will expose students to a wide variety of written and video texts and provide opportunities for extensive writing in Arabic. It requires Advanced proficiency in Arabic in all skills.


The course will utilize various text and video materials that will be made available to students via Blackboard.

Graduate Supervision


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).


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