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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)


The list below shows Durham University research staff who are members of IMEMS. Click the member's name to see a more detailed biography and department.

We also welcome anyone from outside the University with an interest in our work to join. Membership is free of charge. You will receive invitations to our programme of events, with a weekly emails digest about what is happening in the Insitute and further afield. To join IMEMS contact:

Dr Adam Talib, BA [California], MA [Cairo], DPhil [Oxon]

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My work demonstrates how the methods, concerns, and reading practices of comparative literature can illuminate the cultural lives of societies that were neither structured by the nation-state nor mediated by European languages. By combining the perspective and analytical instincts of a comparatist with philological training in three key Islamicate literary idioms (Classical Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish), my research seeks to redress the imbalances of epistemic power that have shaped the field of comparative literature.

My first book, How Do You Say “Epigram” in Arabic? Literary History at the Limits of Comparison, uses the methods of archival literary history, Classical Arabic philology, and translation to explore the limitations of the epigram as a category in literary studies. By bringing to light the previously unknown history of Arabic maqatiʿ-poetry, the book demonstrates how extra-European literary histories can inform and radically transform both the intellectual basis of comparative literature and the landscape of world literature.

I am currently at work on my second book, a study of how acts of sexual violence, coercion, and harassment are represented in pre-modern Islamicate literatures and how these representations have been understood, contested, and interpreted by different communities over time. This book draws on literature in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman Turkish (as well as other Islamicate languages that I access through translation) in a variety of forms, including poetry, legal texts, narrative, and historiography, as well as premodern visual representations and contemporary interpretations in media. This reflection on the prevalence of sexual violence, coercion, and harassment in the prestigious canon of Islamicate literatures will encourage scholars and students to engage with and further develop an ethics of reading and teaching.

In my teaching, I have the pleasure of introducing first-year students to the study of the cultures of the Middle East and to work with students in their second year on approaches to reading modern and premodern Arabic literature. Dr Marc Schachter (French and Italian) and I also offer a module on histories of gender and sexuality in the ancient and premodern societies of the Mediterranean basin. This is currently the only translingual module offered in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures. I work with fourth-year students with advanced Arabic language skills to survey literary representations of difference and marginality (including time, sexuality, age, ethnicity, language, etc.).

I have worked with MA and PhD students doing research into a variety of subjects, including Arabic poetry in West Africa, representations of gender in premodern Arabic historiography, popular memory in Egyptian TV shows, Coptic responses to the plague, and others. I welcome emails from prospective applicants for MA or PhD degrees and postdoctoral fellowships.

I'm the associate editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature responsible for classical submissions and I'm on the editorial board of the Journal of World Literature and the advisory board of Gorgias Press' Modern Muslim World book series. I'm also on the jury for Gorgias Press' Classical Islamic World Book Prize.

I studied literary translation with the late master Michael Henry Heim while I was an undergraduate at UCLA. I've translated four novels from Arabic into English as well as several shorter pieces. My co-translation of Raja Alem's The Dove's Necklace tied for 1st place in the Arabic-to-English category at the 2017 Sheikh Hamad Award for Translation.

Indicators of Esteem

Research Interests

  • Classical Arabic Poetry
  • Arabic literary history and the canon
  • Comparative Islamicate poetry: the development of poetic traditions in Arabic, Persian, and Ottoman literatures
  • Classical Arabic literary scholarship: rhetoric, criticism, and prosody
  • Literary Translation

Selected Publications

Authored book

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Edited book

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Translated Book

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