Monday, Sept. 15

  1. Classical and Contemporary Arabic Poetry: Historical and Theoretical Background
    1. Pre-Islamic Poetry
    2. Formal Characteristics
    3. Symbolic Language of Arabic Poetry
    4. Valuation of Poetry in Arab Society
    5. Modernity and Poetry in the Arab World


  • “Introduction” from Salma Jayyusi’s Modern Arabic Poetry (1987), p. 1-37 (middle of page) – Eres
  • Place the (unattributed) poems in their correct chronological sequence and provide your reasoning based on literary/thematic/formal/aesthetic characteristics. You will be provided with one poem from each of the following periods or literary tendencies: a) pre-Islamic era, b) 9th-10th century, Abbasid-era modernist (muhdath), c) neo-classical, d) romantic, e) symbolist/”tammuzi”/modernist pre-1967, and f) modernist post-1967. Use the accompanying assignment sheet.

Periodization Assignment


Wednesday, Sept. 17

  1. The Literary Renaissance (“Nahda”): Arabic Poetry from the late 19th century to 1967
    1. Pre-Islamic Era
    2. Abbasid-era Moderns
    3. Medieval Period (“Age of Literary Decadence”)
    4. Neo-Classicism
    5. Romanticism
    6. Modernism, pre-1967/Symbolism/“the Tammuzi School”
    7. Modernism, post-1967


  1. English-language equivalents



  • Read Abdallah al-Udhari’s Modern Poetry of the Arabic World (incl. “Introduction”). Note: I do not expect you to read every poem in this anthology, but rather to focus on 3-4 poems for each literary “school” in order to get a sense for the evolution of Arabic poetry in the 20th century. You are only accountable for the poets assigned to you (see below)
  • Prepare close textual analysis of a poet’s selected works (assigned by instructor) with reference to your readings from Culler, Adonis, and Jayyusi. Provide annotated copy of poem to accompany presentation, plus 3-4 item bibliography on subject (see list of resources [see below]) provided by instructor.

Example (Poem by Adonis)

Resources on Reserve at Davis Family Library:

Salma Jayyusi, Modern Arabic Poetry: An Anthology

Nathalie Handal, The Poetry of Arab Women

John Asfour, When the Words Burn

Mounah Khouri & Hamid Algar, An Anthology of Modern Arabic Poetry

Roger Allen, The Arabic Literary Heritage

Paul Starkey, Modern Arabic Literature

M.M. Badawi (ed), The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature: Modern Arabic Literature


Resources in Davis Family Library (in-library use only):

Julie Meisami & Paul Starkey, Encyclopedia of Arabic Literature


Online Resources:

Banipal (online journal of modern Arabic literature, including translations)

Arablit (blog dedicated to the discussion and analysis of Arabic literature)

Cornell Arabic Literature Resources (site with many links to other excellent online resources)

Arab Women Writers (blog dedicated to Arab women writers)


Journals (accessible online through the Davis Family library, requires login)

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

Journal of Arabic Literature

Middle Eastern Literatures