Questions for working with Ibrahim and al-Zayyat


We want to think about setting up the discussion of the two books both separately and then together. We will do “close reading” but also then move to think about the texts as “world literature” in both close and distant ways, in relation to our theoretical material…


The first set of questions you can think about in relation to each book. As I mentioned, the more you read, the more you will get out of this class–it would benefit you to read as much as possible. Everyone is required to read one of the books in one language. In discussion and blog comments, you can indicate which book you read and in which language if you feel that is relevant.

Some questions to begin with:

What do we know about the author?

What are the contexts in which the text is written? What is the social context? Political context? Literary context?

What intervention does the text make into these different contexts? What are the literary features (specifically) of each text?

What is the structure of the work? The work’s style? Language?

How do the literary elements of the text engage the other contexts of the book?
What did you note about the translation of the work from Arabic-English (or French, Spanish other languages)?


Working with the texts together:
How do the texts discuss issues of politics? How do they work on political issues through their language/ writing/ style?
Do you detect themes or messages about gender? gender roles/hierarchies? Other things?

How do the works discuss prison? Being political prisoners?

What is the role of Egypt (state, nation, society etc.) in the texts? are they “about Egypt?” Why and why not?

Do they address larger audiences outside Egypt? How do they (or not) address the World?


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