Contemporary Muslim Novels and Creative Nonfiction

Intermediate—Spring

In 1988, two writers from Muslim backgrounds achieved international fame. One was the Egyptian writer Naguib Mahfouz, who became the first Arab to win the Nobel prize in literature. The other was the British Indian writer Salman Rushdie, who published his novel, The Satanic Verses, in the same year. Within a few months, protests against the portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad in the novel spread worldwide, leading to the banning of the book in numerous countries and the issuing of a fatwa by Ayatollah Khomeini of Iran calling for Rushdie’s death. Although the perspectives of Mahfouz and Rushdie on Islam are markedly different, their writings have, in common, a keen interest in religion and culture. In the years since 1988, many new writers have emerged in Muslim majority and minority areas of the world. Their works embrace, resist, reject, transmute, and show nostalgia for the beliefs and practices with which they grew up or have adopted. As natives, immigrants, third culture, or converts, some have actively promoted themselves as Muslim writers, while others question this label or view it as only one signifier of many. The writings that have been selected for this course will be ones that deal substantially with issues of Muslim identity. Previous coursework in Islamic Studies is desirable but not required.