SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Nation and Nationalism in Middle Eastern fiction (in Translation)

Module Code:
FHEQ Level:
Year of study:
Year 2
Taught in:
Full Year


There are no pre-requisites for this module.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

The objectives of the module are to introduce students to the major themes of modern Middle Eastern fiction in the context of the postcolonial struggle for nationhood in the region; to familiarise them with the diversity of cultural politics, political discourses and literary expressions in the Middle East; and to provide them with the necessary critical tools and language for the understanding and analysis of modern Middle Eastern fiction.

At the end of a module, a student should be able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of the history, development, diversity and major themes of modern Middle Eastern fiction.  S/he will be able to relate these to the broader context of the main historical, political and social events affecting the region in the twentieth century.  S/he will comprehend the ways in which individual and communal identities are questioned, debated, subverted or shaped in works of fiction.  S/he will also acquire the critical tools for discussing and writing about literature.   


This module is taught over 22 weeks with 3 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

Course readings and discussions are guided by, but not exhaustive of, or exclusive to, the following major themes:

  1. The colonial and postcolonial context of the development of modern Middle Eastern fiction
  2. The emergence of the nation as a paradigm for individual and communal identity
  3. The spread of nationalism and its impact on literary expression
  4. Imagining the nation
  5. Programmes of nation building
  6. Constructing the national subject
  7. The nation as woman
  8. Nationalism and the liberation of women
  9. National allegories in fiction
  10. Questioning political authority
  11. Resisting the state
  12. Inner and outer exile
  13. Literary Genres: memoir, short story and the novel
  14. Literary Modes: parody, satire, irony and allegory

This module is compulsory for Year 2 students on the BA Middle Eastern Studies programme.

Method of assessment

An essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 2 (30%); an essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 3 (30%); a response paper of 1,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 5, term 1 (10%); a response paper of 1,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 11, term 1 (10%); a response paper of 1,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 5, term 2 (10%); a response paper of 1,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 11, term 2 (10%).

Suggested reading

  • Abdul R. JanMohamed and David Lloyd, ed., The Nature and Context of Minority Discourse. Oxford, 1990.
  • Afkhami, Mahnaz, In the Eye of the Storm: Women in Post-Revolutionary Iran.  London, 1994.
  • Allen, Roger, The Arabic Novel: an Historical and Critical Introduction. Syracuse, 1995.
  • Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism.  London, 1991.
  • Badran, Margot, Feminists, Islam and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt. Princeton, 1995.
  • Bardakjian, Kevork B., A Reference Guide to Modern Armenian Literature, 1500-1920. Detorit, 2000.
  • Beard, Michael, Hedayat’s Blind Owl as a Western Novel. Princeton, 1990.
  • Dawisha, Adeed Isam, Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century: from Triumph to Despair. Princeton, 2003.
  • Finn, Robert, The Early Turkish Novel: 1872-1900. Istanbul, 1984.
  • Forsas-Scott, Helena, ed., Textual Liberation: European Feminist Writing in the Twentieth Century. London, 1991.
  • Ghazoul, Ferila J. and Barbara Harlow, The View From Within: Writers and Critics on Contemporary Arabic Literature. Cairo, 1994.
  • Hillmann, M. C., Hedayat’s ‘The Blind Owl’ Forty Years After. Austin, 1978.
  • Holbrook, Victoria, The Unreadable Shores of Love: Turkish Modernity and Mystic Romance. Austin, 1994.
  • Jankowski, James and Israeli Gershowni, ed., Rethinking Nationalism in the Arab Middle East.  New York, 1997.
  • Kamshad, Hassan, Modern Persian Literature. Cambridge, 1996.
  • Khorrami, Mohammad Mehdi and M. R. Ghanoonparvar, eds., Critical Encounters: Essays on Persian Literature and Culture.  Costa Mesa, 2007.
  • Mehrez, Samia, Egyptian Writers between History and Fiction.  Cairo, 1994.
  • Milani, Farzaneh, Veils and Words: the Emerging Voices of Iranian Women. Syracuse, 1992.
  • Al-Musawi, Muhsin, The Postcolonial Arabic Novel: Debating Ambivalence. Leiden, 2003.
  • Paloucgim A and V. Oshagan, Review of National Literature: Armenia. New York, 1884.
  • Panoosian, Razmig, The Armenians: from Kings and Priests to Merchants and Commissars.  London, 2006.
  • Ostle, Robin, ed., Modern Literatures of the Near and Middle East, 1850-1970. London, 1991.
  • Ramras-Rauch, Gila, The Arab in Israeli Literature. London, 1989.
  • Shaked, Gershon, Modern Hebrew Fiction, tr. Yael Lotan. Bloomington, 2000.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules