Nizar F. Hermes holds a PhD in Comparative Literature and Near Eastern Studies from the University of Toronto and is an Assistant Professor of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Virginia. He is author of The [European] Other in Medieval Arabic Literature and Culture, Ninth-Twelfth Century AD (2012) and co-editor with Gretchen Head of The City in Arabic Literature: Classical and Modern Perspectives (forthcoming Edinburgh University Press, 2017). He is currently working on a monograph entitled Of Cities and the Poetic Imagination in the Premodern and Precolonial Maghrib, 9th-19th Centuries AD.
The Jocular Shaykh: Towards Teaching the Humanistic Treasures of Adab
In my talk, I present a teaching project in English translation inspired by the largely neglected jocular adab treasures of classical Islam. American universities, I argue, should offer more courses on Arab humor, pleasantry, and fun-making. It is mystifying that this amusing chapter of Arabic-Islamic literature and culture isamong the least taught in the American academy. The disinterest in Arab humor in American universities would probably be justified ifcourses on western and non-western humor were equally neglected, but this is absolutely not the case. In fact, it is all too easy to notice the abundance and popularity classes on (classical) Chinese, Japanese, and (in particular) Jewish humor, as well as ancient, medieval, and early modern western humor including the jocular tradition of the Greeks and Romans. This is aside from the plethora of courses on the history and theory of humor from antiquity to modern times, which figure frequently as course offerings in various American departments including comparative literature, philosophy, anthropology, history, and psychology.