Michael Allan, Ph.D.
Assistant Professor, Comparative Literature
Michael Allan received his Ph.D. from the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley, under the direction of Judith Butler and Karl Britto. Before joining COLT, he was a member of the Society of Fellows and affiliated with the Department of Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures at Columbia University (2008-9). He has also been a EUME Fellow with the Forum for Transregional Studies at the Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin (2011-12), a Townsend Fellow at the Townsend Center for the Humanities in Berkeley (2006-7), and a Presidential Intern at the American University in Cairo, where he worked with its Institute for Gender and Women's Studies (2000-1). The past two summers he has served as the site director for the CLS Arabic program in Tangier, Morocco (2011-12).
His research focuses on colonialism, secularization and the formation of modern reading practices in Africa and the Middle East. In both his research and teaching, he bridges textual analysis with social theory and draws from methods in anthropology, film and visual culture, religion, and postcolonial studies. His current book project, Inventing World Literature, focuses on a history of reading in colonial Egypt—at the intersection of the French, Ottoman and British empires. The various chapters address the relation of modern literature to realism, moral education, empirical science, and discourses of secularization.
In addition to his primary research, he is interested in literary theory, gender and sexuality, visual culture, and critical theory. He has published articles on a range of topics: the Lumière Brothers' films in Egypt, the problem of address in world literature (awarded the A. Owen Aldridge Prize by the American Comparative Literature Association), language in the writings of Frantz Fanon, and contemporary Lebanese video art.
- University of California, Berkeley, Ph.D. 2008
- Brown University, B.A., 2000
- "Queer Couplings: Formations of Religion and Sexuality in The Yacoubian Building" The International Journal of Middle East Studies, 44:4, 2013. (http://journals.cambridge.org/abstract_S0020743812001614)
- "How Adab Became Literary: Formalism, Orientalism and the Institutions of World Literature" Journal of Arabic Literature (43), Issues 2-3, 2012, pp172-96.
- “Deserted Histories: The Great Pyramid and Early Film Form” Special Issue of Early Popular Visual Culture, 6:2, 159-170, July 2008.
- “ Reading With One Eye, Speaking With One Tongue: The Problem of Address in World Literature” Comparative Literature Studies, Volume 44, no. 1-2, Fall 2007
- “The Limits of Secular Criticism: Reflections on Literary Reading in a Colonial Frame” Townsend Center for the Humanities Newsletter, February 2007 http://townsendcenter.berkeley.edu/pubs/feb_07_nl.pdf
- “Fanon and the Flesh of Language: Towards a Material Linguistics of Colonial Subjection” Equinoxes , Number 4, Winter 2004
- “The Location of Lebanon: Portraits and Places in the Videography of Jayce Salloum” Parachute , Volume 108 Beyrouth_Beirut, Fall 2002, Simultaneously published as “Le Lieu Liban: Portraits et Sites dans L’Art Vidéo de Jayce Salloum” translated by Denis Lessard
- On Shifting Ground: Muslim Women in the Global Era, The Journal of North African Studies, 12:2, June 2007
- Review of Moneera al-Ghadeer, Desert Voices: Bedouin Women's Poetry in Saudi Arabia The Journal of Arabic Literature (43: 2-3) 2012, pp532-534.
- Review of In the Presence of Absence by Mahmoud Darwish, The Poetry Project Newsletter, January 2012, p23.
COLT 103 Introduction to Comparative Literature III: "Thinking Through Images: Photography, Film, and Video" (Spring 2010)
- What is an image? How do images impact the way we see the world? How have photography, film and video impacted the way we think about seeing? Our course will combine key essays on visuality with specific photographs, films and videos, and will draw from French film theory, Soviet theorists of montage, American film historians and cultural critics. With examples ranging from Jean-Luc Godard to Naim June Pak, the readings and lectures are designed both as an introduction to the field and as an opportunity to learn how formally to analyze visual media. This reading and writing intensive class is divided into three primary units: the first on the spectacle of attraction in early and avant-garde cinema; the second on theories of the image (in Benjamin, Bazin, Eisenstein, and Barthes); and the third on visual pleasure from art house cinema to the slasher film.
COLT 461/561 Studies in Comtemporary Theory "Colonialism and Post-Colonial Theory" (Winter 2011)
- Our course will explore some of the key arguments and debates underlying the analysis of colonialism and the emergence of postcolonial theory. We will investigate texts considered foundational to anti-colonial discourse (Aimé Césaire, Albert Memmi and Frantz Fanon), as well as critical trajectories within postcolonial studies (Edward Said, Gayatri Spivak, Homi Bhabha, and Dipesh Chakrabarty). Our discussions will draw upon works ranging from Gustave Flaubert’s writing on Egypt to Gilles Pontecorvo’s Battle of Algiers, and will emphasize critical interactions between colonialism, history, literature and philosophy.
COLT 462/562 Cultural Intersections "Orientalism: Politics, Sexuality and Religion" (Fall 2009)
- This course weaves together social theory, international politics, film and literature to analyze critically the imagination of civilizational difference between East and West. Beginning with Edward Said’s Orientalism, we will explore how civilizational rhetoric permeates discussions of political authority, sexuality and religion in the modern world. In texts ranging from Disney’s Aladdin to Samuel Huntington’s Clash of Civilizations, the East has been figured as a land shrouded in mystery, the site of political despotism, heightened religiosity and unbridled sexuality. What animates these presumptions—and for whom? In what way do literary, filmic and philosophical texts affirm or contest these imaginings? Our goal is not necessarily to agree or disagree, but to examine the historical formation of Orientalism and to ask about possible worlds made thinkable outside the binarism of East and West. Readings include works by Edward Said, Wendy Brown, Montesquieu, Saba Mahmood, Tayeb Salih, Malek Alloula, Joseph Massad, Rifa’a al-Tahtawi, Ernst Renan, and Richard Burton.
COLT 470/570 Studies in Identity: "Multiculturalism: Representation and Recognition" (Winter 2010)
- Of what value is multiculturalism? In what ways are its values articulated, embodied and enforced—and with what future in mind? What categories make us different? Do these categories pertain across different traditions, places and histories? Can multiculturalism tolerate intolerance? Who or what is deemed intolerant? With what force should tolerance be enforced—and where? Our class will draw from law, poetry, film, essays, theater and novels to explore multiculturalism as the interaction between representation and recognition. Who or what determines what it means to be represented properly? How is recognition integral to identity formation? The first half of the course will look closely at the importance of stories, testimonials and narratives in the construction of identity, the liberal self and the national community. The second half will examine American secularism and the rhetoric of religious tolerance both in the United States as well as in its foreign policy. Readings include works by Charles Taylor, Toni Morrison, DW Griffith, Joan Scott, Judith Butler and Malcolm X.
COLT 614 Graduate Studies in Comparative Literature: "Comparative Literature and its Histories" (Winter 2011)
- Our class will focus on the emergence of Comparative Literature with attention both to local and global histories of the discipline. The first half of the course will combine essays on Comparative Literature with more general studies in philosophy, sociology and culture; and the second half will be conducted as a workshop with each student focusing on the emergence of literary study in his/her particular field. Readings tentatively include Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things, Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction, Frantz Fanon’s “On National Culture,” Edward Said’s Humanism and Democratic Criticism, as well as works by Natalie Melas, Susan Bassnett, Jacques Derrida, David Damrosch, Claudio Guillén, Michael Warner, and Emily Apter.
COLT 615 Comparative Literature Theory: "What's in a Wor(l)d? Transnationalism and Literary Theory" (Winter 2010)
- Our class will consider contemporary discussions in literary theory and trace scholarly methods for the transnational analysis of texts. Possible readings include works by Sartre, Fanon, Apter, Moretti, Glissant, Hofmeyr, Thiong’o, Spivak, Casanova, Liu, Said, Asad, Butler, Damrosch, Chakravarty, Hirschkind and Mahmood.