This course is discontinued

ARA4303 – Modern Arabic Fiction and Dramatic Arts

Schedule, syllabus and examination date

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Course content

How did modern Arabic literature (MAL) come into being? How did it interact with the great classical heritage and with European literatures? Which role did MAL play in the formation of modern Arab nation states, and in which way did, and does, it contribute to the creation of Arab identities? Which major issues were, and are, authors in various Arab countries concerned with, and do they express these in “specifically Arab” ways? What function do belles-lettres fulfill in modern Arab societies?

This course deals with one of the most important aspects of cultural production in the modern Middle East -- creative writing. It owes its significance for the understanding of modern Arab societies to the fact that MAL is an expression of the creative imagination of (mostly) secular oriented segments of society. The course therefore allows access to aspects of modern Arab societies that are often neglected by the media who tends to focus on religious and political thinking.

ARA4303 is constructed around a given subject from the history of MAL. Selected novels, short stories, novellas or dramas are presented with a focus on either a period, a theme, a genre, a country, and/or general questions under discussion in relevant extra-literary disciplines (esp. Middle East cultural studies, anthropology, sociology, history). The course’s focus may differ from year to year. Course activities encompass the reading of original texts, reference literature in Arabic and other languages, as well as discussions about methodology for literary studies and theatre studies.
The course may serve as a historical introduction for advanced students who plan to write their master thesis on a subject related to MAL and is especially recommended as such. The historical approach of this fall course is complemented by the spotlights which the spring course ARA4304 – Contemporary Arabic Literature: Texts and Contexts (discontinued) sheds on literary events and phenomena of the most recent period (last 10-15 years). Both courses are informed by the teacher’s research projects. ARA4303 is meant to profit especially from the findings of The History of Middle Eastern Literatures Revisited.

Learning outcome

Students will

• become familiar with a highly relevant aspect of modern Arab cultural production
• come to know major representatives of the modern literary canon, both key figures and key works
• acquire competence in the reading and interpretation of Arabic primary sources
• receive training in the critical use of relevant secondary literature both in Arabic and in other languages
• develop their ability to describe and summarize source material and to analyze it with regard to a chosen method of literary criticism
• present their own analysis in oral and written form and in a concise academic style
• learn evaluate each other’s work.


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If you are not already enrolled as a student at UiO, please see our information about admission requirements and procedures.

Admission as a Master's student to the Program for Asian and African Studies.


Formal prerequisite knowledge

ARA2110 – Arabisk språk 3+4 (discontinued) or equivalent

Recommended previous knowledge

Fluent knowledge of written Arabic (four semesters minimum); English; a reading knowledge of French and/or German may be helpful.


Teaching consists of at least 5 double hours of lectures and at least 5 double hours of seminars. Attendance in at least two thirds of the teaching is mandatory. Seminars consist of presentations of student essays and prepared discussion notes.

Active participation is expected.

Lectures and seminars will be conducted in English and/or Norwegian.

Access to teaching

A student who has completed compulsory instruction and coursework and has had these approved, is not entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework. A student who has been admitted to a course, but who has not completed compulsory instruction and coursework or had these approved, is entitled to repeat that instruction and coursework, depending on available capacity.


Term paper (semesteroppgave), 8-10 pp. à 2300 characters

Grading scale

Grades are awarded on a scale from A to F, where A is the best grade and F is a fail. Read more about the grading system.

Explanations and appeals

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Special examination arrangements

Application form, deadline and requirements for special examination arrangements.

Facts about this course






Every autumn


Every autumn

Teaching language