Arab Culture and Civilization: A collaborative web project created by NITLE and sponsored by MEPC
Musharaka [ Cooperation ]  Calligraphy by Khaled Al-Saai

Literature and Philosophy

Main Menu   Introduction   Readings   Audio/Video   Links   Bibliography  

-Ethnicity and Identity
-Arab Americans
-Literature and Philosophy
-Popular Culture and the Performing Arts
-Family and Society
-Art and Architecture
-The Arabic Language
-Geography, Demographics, and Resources
-New Media
A website for K-12 educators featuring innovative resource on the culture, geography, history and religions of the Middle East, including essays, classroom activities, downloadable multimedia content and interactive Google Earth tours.


Arabic literature, philosophy and academic writing are reflections of the very rich and diverse cultures of the Arabic speaking world. Beginning before the dawn of Islam with poetry, Arabic literature developed throughout the ages, both influencing and being influenced by the writings of other cultures. Today literature of all genres thrives, even in contexts in which censorship or weak publishing industries make conditions difficult for writers. Indeed, literature has often proved to be a tool with which writers could challenge the injustices of their society. This unit provides a sampling of contemporary literature from the Arab World, as well as information to put those works in a broader historical, social and aesthetic context.

Primary texts included in this unit represent not only some of the highlights of Arabic literature from the Atlantic to the Gulf, but they also provide a taste of writings from this region in languages other than Arabic. A text in Arabic on Western and Muslim stereotypes of one another can also be found in this unit

Poetry is represented by a selection of works by the Moroccan poet Mohamed Bennis, the Syrian poet Nizar Qabbani, and Palestinian poets Salma Khadra Jayyusi and the great Mahmoud Darwish. Drama is represented by a play from one of the Arab World's most well-known dramatists, Sa'dallah Wannus and prose fiction by the Egyptian writer Bahaa' Taher. In two philosophical essays, the Moroccan philosopher Mohamed Abed Al-Jabri discusses the development of Arabo-Islamic philosophy. Samples of writing by Arab Americans and the Francophone writers of the Maghreb are included in the primary readings. Also represented is an excerpt from a novel by Samir Naqqash, and Israeli writer from Iraq who contiues to write in Arabic.

The audio/video section of this unit provides historical background in the interview with Professor Margaret Larkin of the University of California at Berkeley, as well as conversations and performances of work by six Arab American poets during interviews conducted by Barbara Nimri Aziz. Critical readings include an analysis and historical contextualization of all the major genres as well as discussion of the political and social role of literature and the influence of women writers.The gallery section of this unit demonstrates the transformation of some works of Arabic poetry into works of contemporary calligraphic art.

More traditional calligraphy can be seen in the gallery of the Art and Architecture unit.

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