Book talk on “Melancholy Acts: Defeat and Cultural Critique in the Arab World”

Date / Time

April 10, 2024

2:00 pm - 3:30 pm


Taft Hall


Join the Global Middle East Studies Working Group and the Arab American Cultural Center in a discussion with professor Nouri Gana about his latest book, “Melancholy Acts: Defeat and Cultural Critique in the Arab World.”

About the book: How do the literatures and cultures of oppressed societies survive and flourish in spite of the overdetermining conditions of precarity and injustice of which they are a product and against which they protest? “Melancholy Acts” offers richly nuanced reflections on these questions through a series of wide-ranging engagements with Arab thought, literature and film in the aftermath of the 1948 dispossession of Palestinians and the 1967 military defeat of Arab armies. The book offers a psychoaffective theory of cultural production that arises from the disjunction between political impoverishment and cultural resistance to colonial and neoliberal oppression. Across six chapters, “Melancholy Acts” reads with rigor and sensitivity on contentious topics of Arab contemporaneity such as secular modernity and manhood, Arab nationalism and leftism, literary and artistic iltizām or commitment, Islamism and martyrdom. The book tracks the melancholy politics that inform the literary and cultural projects of a multitude of Arab novelists (Ghassan Kanafani and Naguib Mahfouz); poets and playwrights (Mahmoud Darwish, Nizar Qabbani and Saadallah Wannous); and filmmakers (Nouri Bouzid, Moufida Tlatli, Youssef Chahine and Hany Abu Assad).

About the author: Nouri Gana is a professor of comparative literature and near eastern languages and cultures at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is the author of “Signifying Loss: Toward a Poetics of Narrative Mourning” (2011) and editor of “The Making of the Tunisian Revolution: Contexts, Architects, Prospects” (2013) and “The Edinburgh Companion to the Arab Novel in English: The Politics of Anglo Arab and Arab American Literature and Culture” (2013).

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for the Humanities’ Global Middle East Studies Working Group, The Social Justice Initiative, UIC Department of English, UIC Department of French and Francophone Studies and the Institute for Research on Race and Public Policy.
The space for this event is accessible by wheelchair.
For more information, contact the Arab American Cultural Center at 312-413-3253 or
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