Michael Allan: “The Shape of the Word: Reflections on Language and Matter”
Michael Allan (University of Oregon), “The Shape of the Word: Reflections on Language and Matter”. He held this lecture during the Winter Academy “World Scripts: Concepts and Practices of Writing from a Comparative Perspective”; Panel “Concepts of Writing and the Materiality of Language”, 5 September 2015
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). Michael Allan participated in several Winter and Summer Academies of EUME and its predecent organization “Working Group Modernity and Islam”: 2004 in Alexandria, 2006 in Beirut, 2012 in Cairo and 2014 in Rabat.
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.