87362 - Contemporary Arabic Literary Civilisation (1) (LM)

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education Gender equality Reduced inequalities

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

By the end of the course students will have acquired an advanced level of knowledge of modern and contemporary Arab culture and literature with reference to the original sources. They will be able independently to conduct documentary and bibliographic research, so as to apply their skills in the editorial and publishing field and in the promotion of the cultural heritage.

Course contents

Word and Body in Contemporary Arab Women Writers

This course consists of two main sections:

1) General Section

Outlining the history of Arabic Literature from 1798 until contemporary times. 

2) Monographic Section:

Word and Body in contemporary Arab women writers.

In this section, the main lines of development of Arabic literature written by women in the contemporary age will be presented. Based on the now "classical" analytical perspective developed by Fedwa Malti-Douglas in Woman's Body, Woman's Word (1991), the course will outline the main problems related to the relationship between "body" and "word" in the representations of the female in Arabic literature from late nineteenth century to present day.

In this context, the main focus will be put to the process of re-appropriation of the narration of the body by contemporary Arab women writers and its consequences on the ways of conceiving and "acting" literary practice and its relations with the social and cultural context.

In particular, a specific "case study" will be presented: the history of the cultural review Jasad ("Body"), founded in Lebanon on the initiative of a group of intellectuals led by the writer Joumana Haddad. 

Through the General Section and the Monographic Section, the course will pursue the following key objectives:

1) outlining the main trends in the historical development of Arabic literature and culture in Modern and Contemporary times;

2) analyzing the main historical-linguistic and epistemological issues concerning the notion of "Women's Literature" with reference to modern and contemporary Arab culture. 



a) General Section

Isabella CAMERA D'AFFLITTO, Letteratura Araba Contemporanea. Dalla Nahda ad oggi, Carocci, Roma, 1998 and any of the later editions. 

b) Monographic Section: 

BADRAN, Margot & COOKE, Miriam, Opening the Gates: An Anthology of Arab Feminist Writing. Bloomington, Indiana University Press, 2004.(Selected sections to be agreed upon with the Teacher).

COLOMBO, Valentina, Parola di donna, corpo di donna. Antologia di scrittrici arabe contemporanee. Milano, Mondadori, 2005. "Postfazione" + 5 short stories to be chosen in accordance with the Teacher.

HADDAD, Joumana, I Killed Scheherazade : Confessions of an Angry Arab Woman. London: Saqi, 2011


MERNISSI, Fatima, Scheherazade goes West. Different Cultures, Different Harems. New York: Washington Square Press, 2001.



BURUMA, Ian, and MARGALIT, Avishai, 2005. Occidentalism: The West in the Eyes of Its Enemies. New York: Penguin Books. (Selected sections to be agreed upon with the Teacher).

SAID, Edward W., 1978. Orientalism. New York: Pantheon Books, 1978 (First Edition). (Selected sections to be agreed upon with the Teacher).

SILVERSTEIN, Adam, Islamic History: A Very Short Introduction, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010. (Selected sections to be agreed upon with the Teacher).


CECERE, G. – D’ONOFRIO, M.L., “Tolleranza o cittadinanza? La situazione dei Copti ed il ruolo della sharia nell’evoluzione del sistema dei diritti in Egitto”, in Annuario DiReCom, Istituto di Studi Comparativi sui Diritti e le Religioni, Facoltà di Teologia di Lugano, 2009, p. 117-158.

MALTI-DOUGLAS, Fedwa, Woman's Body, Woman's Word: Gender and Discourse in Arabo-Islamic Writing.

Printed book: Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, 1991.

Ebook: Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2019




Teaching methods

The course consists mainly of lectures. However, part of the will be specially devoted to foster the students' direct involvement. In particular, individual or groups of students will be encouraged to organize oral presentations in classroom, concerning specific historical and ideological issues and / or translation of texts previously agreed upon with the teacher.

Assessment methods


Students who attend at least 75% of the lessons are considered to be attending.

This course is  the second part of the Integrated Course "Arabic Literary Civilization" (12 CFU). The final mark of the Intregrated Course will result from the arithmetic average of the results of both the exam of the first part (Ancient and Medieval) and the second part  (Modern and Contemporary). 


The exam of this course (Modern and Contemporary Arabic Literary Civilization).

The exam  consists of an oral test.

This exam will assess the student's command of the material studied in the course. The student will be asked to provide a linguistic and historical commentary on selected texts among those analysed by the teacher during the course and will be judged on his/her ability to summarise and critically discuss topics raised in the course, making use of the exam bibliography and the course tools provided.

The assessment will thus consider the student's:
- competence in commenting on the selected texts, i.e. in identifying, translating and contextualizing them;
- knowledge and understanding of the topics covered;
- ability to summarise and analyse themes and concepts;
- familiarity with the terminology associated with the subject and his ability to use it effectively.

Top marks will be awarded to a student displaying an ability to provide a full-fledged linguistic and historical commentary of the selected texts and an overall understanding of the topics discussed during the lectures, combined with a critical approach to the material and a confident and effective use of the appropriate terminology

Average marks will be awarded to a student who has memorized the main points of the material and is able to summarise them satisfactorily and provide an effective critical commentary, while failing to display a complete command of the appropriate terminology.

A student will be deemed to have failed the exam if he/she displays significant errors in his understanding and failure to grasp the overall outlines of the subject, together with a poor command of the appropriate terminology.

Teaching tools

References provided in the Course Bibliography will be integrated with a wide range of other tools, mostly relying on Arabic sources (audiovisual, press, literary texts, as well as religious, legal, economic and political texts).

Office hours

See the website of Giuseppe Cecere