SOAS University of London

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

Modern Palestinian Literature (PG)

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

Palestine has a vibrant literary tradition the study of which may serve as a key to understanding the psychological, social and cultural dimensions of the Israel/Palestine conflict. In this module, selections of Palestinian writings in different genres will be read and analysed as exemplars of literary responses to a situation of alienation and displacement, with particular focus on tradition and innovation, the construction and maintenance of identity, coping strategies and the evolving social function of literature in the context of the current conflict. The module also aims to place these writings into the wider historical framework of Near Eastern literature through tracing salient images and themes back to earlier antecedents, including Muslim, Christian and Jewish scripture. The class will be taught in translation, but the original texts will be made available to those who read Arabic.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrae:

  • Situate Palestinian literature within the framework of Arabic literature
  • Demonstrate a high degree of awareness of Palestinian literary history
  • Engage with critical discourse on Palestinian literature
  • Analyse structures, themes and imagery in Palestinian literature
  • Develop and sustain an original line of argumentation


This module will be taught over 20 weeks with 2 hours of  seminars per week.

Scope and syllabus

Authors to be studied may include Mahmud Darwish, Samih al-Qasim Emil Habibi, Anton Shammas, Salma Khadra Jayyusi, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Ghassan Kanafani, Mourid Barghouti, Tamim al-Barghouti, Fadwa Tuqan, Tawfiq Sayigh, Mu'in Basisu, Sahar Khalifeh, Ibrahim Nasrallah, and Edward Said.

Topics covered may include:

  • Resistance literature
  • Imagining of nation without state
  • Homeland and belonging
  • Self-writing and identity
  • Exile, inner exile and diaspora
  • Prison literature
  • Women and the Palestinian nation
  • Myth and mythology

Method of assessment

  • Two Essays (1,500 words each) (30% each)
  • One Virtual Presentation (15 minutes) (40%) 
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

Primary sources

Classical Poem (قصيدة الشطرين)

  • Karmi, ‘Abd al-Karim. The Collected Poetry of Abu Salmá ديوان أبي سلمى. Beirut: al-‘Awdah, 1978. )Untranslated )
  • Rashid, Harun Hashim. The Complete Works الأعمال الكاملة. Beirut: al-‘Awda, 1981. (Untranslated)

Single-Foot Poem (قصيدة التفعيلة)

  • Darwish, Mahmud. Why did you Leave the Horse Alone? Translated from the Arabic by Jeffrey Sacks. Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago Books; St. Paul, Minn.: Distributed by Consortium Book Sales and Distribution, 2006.  Arabic version:  Darwish, Mahmud. Why did you Leave the Horse Alone? لماذا تركت الحصان وحيدا؟. Beirut: Riyad al-Rayyis, 2001.
  • Jayyusi, Salma Khadra. Return from the Dreamy Spring العودة من النبع الحالم. Beirut: al-Adab, 1960. (Untranslated)
  • Tuqan, Fadwa. The Complete Works الأعمال الكاملة. Beirut: al-‘Awda, 2004. (Untranslated)

Prose poem (قصيدة النثر)

  • Jabra, Ibrahim Jabra. The Complete Poetry Collections المجموعات الشعرية الكاملة. Beirut: Riyad al-Rayyis, 1990. (Untranslated)
  • Sayigh, Tawfiq. The Poetry Collections المجموعات الشعرية. London: Riyad al-Rayyes, 1990. (Untranslated)


  • Habiby, Emile. The Secret Life of Saeed : the Pessoptimist. Translated by Salma
    Khadra Jayyusi and Trevor LeGassick. London: Zed, 1985.
    Arabic version: Habibi, Emile. The Strange Incidences of the Disappearance of Sa‘id Abu al-Nahs the Pessoptimist الوقائع الغريبة في اختفاء سعيد أبي النحس المتشائل. Beirut: Ibn Khaldun, 1974.
  • Jabra, Jabra Ibrahim. The Ship. Translated and introduced by Adnan Haydar and Roger Allen. Washington, D.C.: Three Continents Press, 1985.  Arabic version: Jabra, Jabra Ibrahim. The Ship السفينة. Beirut: al-Nahar, 1970.
  • Kanafani , Ghassan. Men in the Sun and other Palestinian Stories. Translated by Hilary Kilpatrick. Boulder, CO: Lynne Rienner, 1999.  Arabic version:Kanafani, Ghassan. Men in the Sun رجال في الشمس. Beirut: al-Tali‘ah, 1963.

Personal accounts

  • Jabra, Jabra Ibrahim. The First Well. Translated by Issa J. Boullata. Fayetteville: University of Arkansas Press, 1995.  Arabic version: Jabra, Jabra Ibrahim. The First Well: Chapters of Autobiography البئر الاولى: فصول من سيرة ذاتية. London: Riyad al-Rayyis, 1987.
  • Tuqan, Fadwa. A Mountainous Journey: an Autobiography. Translated by Olive E. Kenny and Naomi Shihab Nye. London: Women’s Press, 1990.  Arabic version:Tuqan, Fadwa. A Mountainous Journey, a Difficult Journey; an Autobiography رحلة جبلية، رحلة صعبة: سيرة ذاتية. Amman: Dar al-Shuruq, 1988.

Secondary sources

  • Darraj, Faisal.Transformations in Palestinian Literature. Translated by Michael K. Scott, 2007. In: Words Without Borders — the online magazine for international literature.
  • Jayyusi, Salma Khadra. Anthology of Modern Palestinian Literature. New York: Columbia University Press,1992.
  • Parmenter, Barbara McKean. Giving Voice to Stones: Place and Identity in Palestinian Literature. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994.
  • Allen, Roger. An Introduction to Arabic Literature. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000.


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules