SAS Honors Program

Will count towards SAS - AMESALL Major and Minor

Arguably, there is a gap in the analysis of animality in modern Arabic and North African literary discussions while ironically animals are populating Arabic canonical tradition. The word hayawan, ‘animal’, invokes a number of classical Arabic texts and treaties. One may argue that Arabic letters encompass a discursive literary and encyclopaedic genre that is devoted to exploring, commenting on, or surveying sources on animals, ranging from Al-Jahiz, Al-Qazwini, Ibn Qutayba, and Ikhwan al-Safa to Al-Damiri. More specifically, pre-Islamic and oral poetry’s zoopoetics embody essential formulations about the primal identification with the animal, the role of wildlife, and the structuring of sociality, revealing an extraordinary bond between the human and the animal while testing the limits of human knowledge. This class aims to uncover and rethink the status of the animal in Arabic literary tradition. What does the animal define and how can we read its voice or cry? What type of non human and animal eulogizing do we find in classical and modern texts? How can we begin analyzing the evocation of the animal as a lament of the lost, pre-modern world in its dramatic transition to modernity? Is it possible to address the vanishing animal and the wildlife as a result of global colonialism, urbanization, and drilling for oil and raw material?

This class will address the non-human other in global colonization of the Middle East. If Western philosophical articulation of subjectivity depends on the superiority of the human over the animal, how does Arabic literary and philosophical tradition differ from the western discourse of species? This class will reconsider and analyze these rich meditations on animality Some of the texts we will consider are: The treatment of animals in pre-Islamic poetry, al-Jahiz’s rhetorical zoology, Ikhwan al-Safa’s animals grievance, al-Ma’ari’s defense of animals, speaking animals and fables in Kalila wa Dumna, tales of demons or enchantment monsters in One Thousands and One Nights, animalizing the other or the nonhuman in postcolonial novel, the allegorical representations of animals in modern Arabic poetry, film and popular culture.

YASMINE KHAYYAT's research interests include contemporary Arabic literature, Arabic poetry, cultural memory studies and literary theory. Her interest in memory studies dovetails with her own life experience growing up in Beirut during the Lebanese civil war (1975-90) and her desire to revisit this experience academically. At Columbia University she was part of the Engendering Archives Working Group Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference (CCASD) where she was in conversation with a diverse group of scholars on an interdisciplinary research project that explored the making of archives, specifically, the knowledge they afford and the question of what exceeds their grasp.


Nelson Biological Labs
Room A-110
P 848-445-3912


Milledoler Hall
Room 12
P 848-932-1406


Ruth Adams Building
Suite 108 
P 848-932-2011


Lucy Stone Hall
Room A-201
P 848-445-3206


100 Rockafeller Rd
Rm. 1031
P 848-445-3206

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