SOAS University of London

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

Modern Palestinian Literature (PG)

Module Code:
Year of study:
Taught in:
Full Year

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the module, a student should be able to demonstrate…

A general understanding and a substantial degree of first hand knowledge of the seminal contribution Palestinian authors have made to the development of modern Arabic literature in both poetry and prose read in the original language. This includes

  • a knowledge of Palestinian literary history
  • familiarity with key authors and a selection of their work in the original Arabic
  • awareness of critical responses to the works of Palestinian authors in the Arab world and beyond


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

Scope and syllabus

Palestinian authors have made an outstanding contribution to modern Arabic literature. Their writings also provide an important key for a better understanding of the psychological, social and cultural dimensions of the Middle East crisis. These factors render a study of their works appropriate for the MA programmes in which the module is available.

Selections of Palestinian writings in different genres will be studied in the Arabic originals as exemplars of literary response 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.

Authors to be studied in the shared BA / MA component of the module will include Mahmud Darwish, Emil Habibi, Salma Jayyusi, Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, Ghassan Kanafani and Fadwa Tuqan. The MA component will include poetry by Abdel Karim Karmi, Hashim Harun Rachid and Tawfiq Sayigh, as well as autobiographical prose by Fadwa Tuqan and Jabra Ibrahim Jabra.

Method of assessment

One essay of 2,000words to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 2 (30%); one essay of 3,000 words to be submitted on Friday, week 1, term 3 (45%); one 15-minute oral presentation (10%); a Textual Analysis of 1,000 words (15%).

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