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Themes in Modern Arabic Literature


This is a provisional course description. The final version will be published at a later date. Students are advised not yet to purchase the literature mentioned in the reading list!

Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Arabic Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) and the ability to read Arabic (level B2 European Common Framework). Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os or Dr. Dina Heshmat, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student admitted to one of the above-mentioned master programmes or if you are not confident regarding your level of Arabic.


Focus of the course will be Arabic novels and short stories in their literary and historical context. General theoretical courses will be given at the beginning of the seminar, focusing on methods to analyze modern literary narratives. Special attention will be given to narratology and to formal aspects (intertextuality, metafiction or polyphony, to name but a few) of the texts read. Readings are based on background literature as well as Arabic short stories and novel extracts..

Course objectives

Students will be familiarized with developments in modern Arabic literature. Through the close reading of novels and short stories they will enhance their knowledge of literary language(s) of both the Mashriq and the Maghreb and be able at the end of the course to conduct an analysis of the formal aspects of a literary narrative using concepts of narratology.


See (provisional) timetables.

Method of instruction

Seminar, weekly attendance and participation required. Readings and papers on selected topics.

Assessment method

  • Final paper (between 3,000 to 4,000 words) (60%) to be completed before the end of the course. A printed draft version is to be presented and discussed during the course; the feedback given by the instructor and fellow students must be integrated into the final version.

  • Oral Presentation 30%

  • Participation and performance in weekly assignments 10%


Blackboard will be used for internal communication and distribution of the readings.

Reading list

M.BAL, Narratology: Introduction to the theory of Narrative, Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2007.
Additional readings (background literature as well as Arabic Short stories and novel extracts) to be found on Blackboard and in the pigeon hole.


Registration via uSis.

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply.

Contact information

Dr. D. Heshmat (on leave until 1 February 2013).


This course is taught in Arabic and English