Literature and Social Issues in the Middle East


University of Bamberg
Wednesdays 14:00 – 16:00 (CEST) | 08:00 - 10:00 (EDT)
15 WEEKS (11 April 2023 - 21 July 2023)


This course explores the significance of literature in the Middle East throughout history. It provides a survey of Arabic literature through a selection of texts on a wide range of topics. In this seminar, the literature will be examined in relation to the contextual settings during which it was written. Students will learn more about the lives of the classical Arab poets and the circumstances in which their poetry was created. Furthermore, we will evaluate how modern Arabic literature addresses social issues, by discussing a sample of modern Arabic literature including poetry, novels, and short stories. Through the readings provided in the course, there will be vivid discussions on the literature in relation to the social context of the period from a variety of perspectives.


In this course, the participants will:

- study the major aspects of Arabic literature and their progress through the course of history.

- explore the major social aspects that have influenced literature and its expression in the Middle East.

- improve their understanding of the Middle Eastern culture and the different historical aspects that helped in shaping the present society.

- be introduced to the foundations of Arabic Literary themes and techniques of the literary texts in relation to the environment it was created in.

Upon the successful completion of the course participants will be able to:

- Analyze the evolution of Arabic literature through history.

- Evaluate the influence of social issues on Arabic literature and its expression in the Middle East.

- Appreciate the cultural diversity and social context of Middle Eastern society.

- Evaluate the literary themes and techniques used in Arabic literary texts and understand their relationship with the environment in which they were created.


A full outline of the course syllabus can be found here. However, it structure is changed. Please check the platform for the updated syllabus. 

Please note that there will be a preparatory meeting that will take place on Wednesday, April 5th at 14:00, one week before the class starts. In this meeting, we will introduce you how the platform works and we will offer technical support so that everybody is technically ready for the first session.


Shada Bokir, PhD, MA is a lecturer and sociocultural anthropologist. She is involved in several research projects concerning social anthropology and women studies. Her research interests are Literary Criticism, anthropology, Middle Eastern studies, and Yemeni studies. Shada Has finished her Master’s in Literature as a Fulbright Scholar at Appalachian State University/ North Carolina/ USA, then she went to do her doctorate studies at the National University of Malaysia in Post-colonial Literature in Kuala Lumpur/ Malaysia. She works currently as a lecturer of literature and a Post-Doc researcher at ERC project WIBARAB in the Department of Near Eastern Studies at the University of Vienna. She is also affiliated as a Post-Doc researcher at the Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA)of the Austrian Science Academy. She published several scholarly papers inlcuding: “Identity Experiments in two Female Photographers of Yemeni Women”, “Exploring ‘Her’ Depictions of the 19th Century Social Transactions in Alcott’s Behind the Mask,” and “The Significance of the Trope of the Belly in Silko’s Ceremony”.

Mohammed Almahfali, PhD, MA, is a research fellow at Columbia Global Centers – Amman. He got his Ph.D. from Cairo University in 2014, and then he worked as an assistant professor at Hadhramout University – Yemen, before moving to Lund University Sweden to work as a visiting researcher at the Center for Advanced Middle Eastern Studies. His research interests include Arabic political, media and literary discourse analysis, access to health, capacity-building in higher education and sustainable post-conflict recovery strategies to address the challenges in Yemen for the coming years. Among his latest publication are: “The Interaction of War Impacts on Education: Experiences of School Teachers and Leaders”, “Human rights from an Islamic perspective: A critical review of Arabic peer-reviewed articles”, and Transformation of Dominant Political Themes From the Founder to the Current Leader of the Huthi Movement.

This Seminar is co-sponsored and funded by the New University in In Exile Consortium based at the New School and hosted by University of Bamberg.