I grew up in the United States but was very fortunate to spend a year in Beirut, Lebanon at the age of twelve, and that convinced me that Arabic would be part of my future. I completed a BA at Harvard-Radcliffe College in Near Eastern Studies and decided that research excited me more than the public affairs career I had thought I would pursue. I came to Oxford on a Marshall Scholarship and completed a DPhil at St. Antony’s College on an Egyptian oppositional poet and journalist, working with Albert Hourani and Mustafa Badawi, and then spent two productive years at St Hugh’s College, as Joanna Randall-McIver Junior Research Fellow. I decided that I wanted to be back in the region I study, and so I moved to Egypt for a non-academic job and stayed for five years. I returned to the US and after some years of full-time parenting I took up teaching positions in the Comparative Literature departments at Brown University and the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. I moved in 2009 to Edinburgh as Iraq Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies, and in 2014 to New York University Abu Dhabi as Senior Humanities Research Fellow before joining the Magdalen community in summer 2015.
I will act as advisor to Magdalen students pursuing degrees in Arabic.
For FHS Arabic: Further/special subject papers: Harems, homes and streets: Gender and space in the Middle East (texts all in English translation); al-Nahda: Literature and cultural activism in the Arab 19th Century (primary texts in Arabic); (proposed): Fiction and feminism in Egypt
For MMES: Option papers: The Harem and the body: Gender and space in the Middle East (texts all in English translation with some optionally read in Arabic); al-Nahda: Literature and cultural activism in the Arab 19th Century (primary texts in Arabic) (as special option).
Also, contribute to the MMES Core Paper.
I’m working currently on nineteenth-century feminism and women’s writing in Egypt and Ottoman Syria, which also involves studying the emergence of the Arabic novel. I plan to continue this work by focusing on female readership, translation, and discourses of publishing, Egypt 1870-1930 in a broad Middle East/South Asia context, and also to continue the work I’ve done on auto/biography in Arabic in the same period. I retain strong interest in vernacular writing and popular literature and my next big project may focus on colloquial poetry, satirical prose, and caricature in the Egyptian press at the turn into the twentieth century. What links all of these topics is my concern with readerships and audiences and the ways literary texts associated with noncanonical or marginalised genres and culture producers become important channels of public debate. I try to think about history as a series of conversations, in the back pages of newspapers, through romance novels, and with satirical poetry, and to ask how nineteenth-century Egyptians (for instance) read.
As an active literary translator, mostly of contemporary Arabic fiction into English, I also write on issues of translation and have been carrying out some practice-based and activist-oriented research on contemporary practices of Arabic literary translation, especially first-author/second-author [translator] interactions and the politics of publishing and marketing. As an aspect of this, I devote time to training and mentoring emerging translators.
Classes of Ladies of Cloistered Spaces: Writing Feminist History through Biography in Fin-de-Siècle Egypt. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015.
May Her Likes Be Multiplied: Biography and Gender Politics in Egypt. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 2001. Translated into Arabic as: Shahirat al-nisa’: Adab al-tarajim wa-siyasiyyat al-naw’ fi Misr. Trans. Sahar Tawfiq. Cairo: Al-Markaz al-qawmi lil-tarjama (no. 1265), 2008.
Edited books and special journal issues
(with N. Davidson) 25 Years of Revolution: Comparing revolt and transition from Europe 1989 to the Arab World 2014. Special Issue, Journal of Contemporary Central and Eastern Europe 23: 2-3 (August 2015). Introduction, pp. 99-103.
(with A. Gorman) The Long 1890s in Egypt: Colonial Quiescence, Subterranean Resistance. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014.
Women’s Autobiography in South Asia and the Middle East: Defining a Genre. Special Issue, Journal of Women’s History 25: 2 (Summer 2013).
Harem Histories: Envisioning Places and Living Spaces. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010.
Three’s a Crowd: The Translator-Author-Publisher and the Engineering of Girls of Riyadh for an Anglophone Readership. In Translating Women from beyond the Anglo-American Eurozone, ed. Farzaneh Farahzad, Luise von Flutow, and Nancy Tsai (forthcoming).
‘Go directly home with decorum’: Conduct books for Egypt’s young, c.1912. In Mind, Body and Soul: Arabic and Islamic Studies, edited by Joseph E. Lowry and Shawkat M. Toorawa (Leiden: Brill, 2017).
Women and the Emergence of the Arabic Novel. In Oxford Handbook to the Arabic Novel, ed. Wa’il Hassan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
Disruptions of the Local, Eruptions of the Feminine: Local Reportage and National Anxieties in Egypt’s 1890s. In Between Politics, Society and Culture: The Press in the Middle East before Independence, ed. Anthony Gorman and Didier Monciaud (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming ??) [‘in press’ since c2008].
Liberal Thought and the “Problem” of Women. In Arabic Thought beyond the Liberal Age, 1780s-1940s: Towards an Intellectual History of the Nahdah, ed. Jens Hanssen and Max Weiss (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), pp. 187-213.
Fiction’s Histories: Writers and Readers in the Middle East. In Shifting Sands: The Unravelling of the Old Order in the Middle East, ed. Raja Shehadeh and Penny Johnson (London: Profile Books, 2015), pp. 171-84.
Ataturk Becomes ‘Antar: Nationalist-Vernacular Politics and Epic Heroism in 1920s Egypt. In Studying Modern Arabic Literature: Mustafa Badawi, Scholar and Critic, ed. Roger Allen and Robin Ostle (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2015), pp. 118-38.
Before Qasim Amin: Writing histories of gender politics in 1890s Egypt. In The Long 1890s in Egypt: Colonial Quiescence, Subterranean Resistance, ed. Marilyn Booth and Anthony Gorman (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2014), pp. 365-98.
Insistent Localism in a Satiric World: Shaykh Naggar’s “Reed-Pipe” in the 1890s Cairene Press. Chapter 3 in Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair, ed. Hans Harder and Barbara Mittler (New York and Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 2013). Ser. Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context. Pp. 187-218.
What’s in a Name? Branding Punch in Cairo, 1908. Chapter 6 in Asian Punches: A Transcultural Affair, ed. Hans Harder and Barbara Mittler (New York and Heidelberg: Springer Verlag, 2013). Ser. Heidelberg Studies on Asia and Europe in a Global Context. Pp. 271-303.
Constructions of Syrian Identity in the Women’s Press in Egypt. In The Origins of Syrian Nationhood: Histories, pioneers and identity, ed. Adel Beshara. London: Routledge, 2011. Pp. 223-52.
Between the Harem and the Houseboat: Fallenness, Gendered Spaces and the Female National Subject in 1920s Egypt. In Harem Histories: Envisioning Places and Living Spaces, ed. Marilyn Booth. Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2010. Pp. 342-73.
Essays in Refereed Journals
Islamic politics, street literature and John Stuart Mill: Composing gendered ideals in 1990s Egypt. Feminist Studies 39: 3 (Fall 2013): 1-32 (appeared early 2014).
Locating women’s autobiographical writing in colonial Egypt. Women’s Autobiography in South Asia and the Middle East. Special Issue, Journal of Women’s History, ed. Marilyn Booth, 25: 2 (Summer 2013), 36-60.
House as novel, novel as house: The global, the intimate, and the terrifying in contemporary Egyptian literature. Journal of Postcolonial Writing 47: 4 (Sept. 2011): 377-90.
The Muslim Woman as celebrity author and the politics of translating Arabic: Girls of Riyadh go on the road. Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies 6: 3 (Fall 2010): 149-82.
Celestial Bodies, by Jokha Alharthi. (Jukha al-Harithi, Sayyidat al-qamar, Beirut, 2012). Under consideration.
No Road to Paradise, by Hassan Daoud (Hasan Dawud, La tariq ila al-janna, Beirut, 2013). Winner of the Naguib Mahfouz Prize, 2015. Cairo: American University in Cairo Press, forthcoming 2016.
The Penguin’s Song, by Hassan Daoud (Hasan Dawud, Ghina’ al-batrik, Beirut, 1998). San Francisco, CA: City Lights, 2014.
As Though She Were Sleeping, by Elias Khoury (Ilyas Khuri, Ka’annaha na’imatun, Beirut, 2007). Brooklyn, NY: Archipelago Books, 2012.