About Roger Allen

I have been teaching Arabic literature at the University of Pennsylvania since 1968 and have also served as chair of the Program in Comparative Literature. My book, The Arabic Novel (Syracuse University Press, 1982; 2nd revised and enlarged edition, 1994), is the only general work of its kind in English and has twice been translated into Arabic. I have also published a large number of studies on all aspects of Arabic literature, both classical and modern, including a major anthology of modern Arabic criticism, Modern Arabic Literature (Ungar Publications). I am interested in the theory and practice of translation and have myself translated many works of modern Arabic fiction (including one of the novels to be read in the seminar). My study of the entire literary tradition of the Arabs has been published by Cambridge University Press: The Arabic Literary Tradition [1998] (with an abridged paperback version, Introduction to Arabic Literature [2000]); with the same press I am also giving the final editorial touches to one of the volumes in a series of six under the general title, the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, this particular volume being devoted to what we are calling the “post-Classical period.”.

Each fall semester, I alternate two courses taught in English: one is on Arabic Literary History; the other is on Arabic Literature and Literary Theory (including a number of aspects in the study of narratives--orality, point of view, time, autobiography, and so on). I have made presentations at numerous schools and colleges all over the country on Islam and Middle Eastern Literature. On the more local level, I regularly give presentations to PATHS (the Philadelphia-area high-school teachers group) on Arabic literature and am currently involved in a project with teachers at the high schools in the West Philadelphia area.

I offered this seminar as part of the NEH Summer Seminars for High School Teachers for the first time in 1993. I can say without equivocation that I found the four weeks that I spent with 15 highly motivated high school teachers reading and discussing the literary works I know and love to be one of the most exciting and rewarding experiences of my teaching career. The same experience has been repeated with the group who have made up every seminar since that time (I have offered it every other year).

I am also a specialist in language pedagogy and am interested in teaching in general (I have served since 1986 as the ACTFL Oral Proficiency Trainer for Arabic.)  Apart from all that, I am also a professional musician, having previously served for 26 years as organist-choirmaster of an Episcopal Church in Philadelphia.

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