African 300: Arab Publics

Instructor: Dr. Samuel England
Meeting Time: Tuesdays & Thursdays, 4:00-5:15 PM
3 credits, counts as Literature

Is it possible to build a town, city, or country with public art? What are the roles of literacy and literary writing in Arab popular culture?

Those are two of our central questions motivating this course. We will closely read literature, films, visual art pieces, and digital communications (such as chat forums and tweets) in order to understand what public life has meant to Arabs since the era of national independence around World War II.

Our geographic focus will be on northern Africa, but we’ll consistently broaden our view through the course of the semester. We will find traces of Arab popular art in the American Midwest, especially here in Wisconsin, a history of creative culture that receives little publicity but is key to appreciating how far Arab public spaces extend around the world.

Materials include:

– Films by Kaouther Ben Hania and Elia Suleiman

– Fiction by Tawfik al-Hakim, Leila Abouzeid, and Hisham Matar

– Poetry by Abu al-Qasim al-Shabbi and Nazik al-Malaika

– Wall art of Bahia Shehab and eL Seed

– Criticism and history by Muhammad ‘Abid al-Jabiri, Samah Selim, and Ziad Fahmy