Max Shmookler
Field(s) : Arabic Literature, Cultural History, Theories of Literature and Writing
Advisor(s) : Gil Anidjar, Brinkley Messick, Bilal Orfali, Maurice Pomerantz, Marwa Elshakry

Max Shmookler is a PhD candidate focusing on Arabic literary history and theory. His dissertation, which he will defend in the spring of 2020, explores the transformations in Arabic narrative prose, and the maqāma genre in particular, before and during the arrival of the European novel in the Middle East in the early nineteenth century. This research has uncovered the first female protagonist in a nearly thousand-year-old literary genre and provides a sound basis for questioning whether the Arabic novel should be understood as the quintessential form of literary modernity in the Middle East. In addition to his dissertation, Shmookler is publishing an article in the journal Intellectual History in the Islamicate World about ʽAbdallah al-Nadīm’s blending of the maqāma with Satanic tropes and lewd imagery for the purpose of political satire in his 1893 Kitāb al-Masāmīr. In the fall of 2020, Shmookler and his colleague Diaa al-Aswad will publish a critical edition of a remarkable maqāma manuscript composed by the Levantine scholar Aḥmad al-Barbīr in the late-eighteenth century. The critical edition of Maqāmāt al-Barbīr will be published by the Orient Institut Beirut in their Bibliotheca Islamica. Prior to this, Shmookler co-edited a volume of Sudanese short stories in translation entitled The Book of Khartoum (Comma Press, 2016). His translation of Bushra al-Fadil’s short story in this collection was subsequently awarded the 2017 Caine Prize for African Writing. Beyond the world of academic scholarship and literary translation, Shmookler is an avid teacher, having designed and taught his own undergraduate seminar at Columbia on the Arabic novel and its “Others”, as well as courses of his own design at Queens College and WEB DeBois Institute at Princeton, and the world history curriculum at Poly Prep Country Day School.

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