Design a site like this with
Get started

Arabic Stories and Poetry in Translation

A Series of Workshops at Birkbeck and SOAS
Presented by
Marina Warner and Wen-chin Ouyang


About the workshops

Arabic Stories and Poetry in Translation is a series of CHASE funded workshops held at Birkbeck and SOAS,  University of London. 

These workshops will continue to adapt methods used for bringing Greek tragedy to an Anglophone reader and apply them to Arabic literature. The workshops are open to students of literature, creative writing, and translation studies as well as Arabic; knowledge of Arabic is useful but not essential. With the help of scholars of Arabic literature, who are interested in the wider transmission and enjoyment of their subject, students will work alongside poets, dramatists, translation theorists, and writers of fiction, in order to revision (‘awaken’) Arabic literary texts for contemporary readers/audiences.

The complexities of Arabic prosody and the vast range of genres and expressions of the Arabic narrative and poetic corpus seem to preclude access to all but scholars. Counter to that, workshop participants will explore means and ways to make this literature accessible beyond a specialist circle.

The joint workshops themselves will examine how stories, motifs, characters, images travel across borders and migrate into new host cultures, moving into different languages, different genres, registers and media. The workshops also set out to investigate collaborative exploration and discussion for translation/literary recreation in itself.  The group sessions will provide the scope to be innovative about participation and collaboration for literary creativity. In this era of hostility to cultures associated with Islam, it is more important than ever to explore the riches of their vast literature and to understand the mutual entanglement of literary traditions.

Participants attend workshops at which the visiting speaker and translator will address a text or group of texts; a general discussion and practical exercises follow.  These will not aim to give faithful (literal) versions of the originals, but transpose them, sometimes even into a different form – e.g. poem to drama, story to song – to reawaken them and communicate them to readers and audiences today.

Each workshop will be followed by a reading open to the public, featuring the speakers. The resulting translations and discussions will be collected, reviewed and discussed in an article by Marina Warner and Wen-chin Ouyang,  with contributions from participants.

At the end of this series attendees will have explored a rich range of Arabic literature from pre-Islam to contemporary fiction; developed strategies for ‘reawakening’ narrative traditions in languages they don’t read, and learned more of the richness and complexity of present day Islamicate culture.


YouTube Channel