Hoda El Shakry

Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature and The College
Walker 309F
Education: Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles, 2012
Teaching at UChicago since 2019
Research Interests: Modern Arab/ic Literatures, North African & Maghrebi Studies, Francophone Studies, Anti-Colonialism, Islam & Literary Ethics, Film & Visual Culture, Aesthetic Philosophy, Gender & Sexuality, Speculative and Science Fiction

Selected Publications

Affiliated with the Center for Middle Eastern Studies; Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality; Center for the Study of Race, Politics, and Culture; and  Department of Romance Languages and Literatures.

I am a scholar of twentieth- and twenty-first century cultural production from North Africa and the Middle East, with an emphasis on the relationship between aesthetics and ethics. My interdisciplinary research extends across the fields of Arabic and Francophone literatures, aesthetic theory, Islamic philosophy, film and visual culture, comparative literary theory, as well as gender and sexuality studies. I specialize in Arabophone and Francophone literature, visual culture, and criticism of the Maghreb (Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia). Foregrounding the Maghreb’s multilingualism, my work intervenes into critical conversations across the disciplines of Arabic, Francophone, African, and Comparative Literatures.

My first book, The Literary Qurʾan: Narrative Ethics in the Maghreb (Fordham University Press, 2019) was awarded the ACLA’s 2018 Helen Tartar Book Subvention Award and the MLA’s 2020 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Prize for Comparative Literary Studies. It explores the influence of Qurʾanic textual, hermeneutical, and philosophical traditions on Arabophone and Francophone fiction from Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco. Placing canonical Francophone writers into conversation with lesser-known Arabophone ones,The Literary Qurʾan stages a series of pairings that invite paratactic readings across texts, languages, and literary canons. Challenging the canonization of secular modes of reading that occlude religious epistemes, practices, and intertexts, the study attends to literature as a site in which the process of entextualization obscures ethical imperatives.

My current book project, Printed Matter(s): Critical Histories of Maghrebi Cultural Journals, theorizes twentieth-century Arabophone, Francophone, and bilingual journals from the Maghreb. Bridging the humanities and social sciences, Maghrebi cultural journals serialized and published fiction, alongside literary criticism, art and aesthetic theory, as well as political and social commentary. I argue that they reflect a view of cultural edification in which knowledge formation is a mediated and shared social praxis. To that end, the study investigates the concepts, intellectuals, and readership networks that Maghrebi cultural journals staged across North and Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, and Europe. These rhizomatic flows of cultural capital signal subversive geopolitical exchanges operating outside the dominant logics of colonial mediation.

I am currently an MLA Delegate Assembly representative for the Global Arab and Arab American Forum and have served on the Forum on Arabic Literature and Culture from 2015-2019. I am also a member of the Editorial Advisory Board of the Journal of Modern Literature and on the Advisory Board of the African Feminist Initiative.

Before joining the University of Chicago I was an Assistant Professor of Comparative Literature at Penn State and a Faculty Fellow at the Gallatin School of Individualized Study at New York University.

Work with Students

I advise Ph.D., M.A., and B.A. students across Comparative Literature, Middle East and North African Studies, African Studies, and French and Francophone Studies.

Dissertation Highlights: “Transgressing Realism: Speculation and Futurity in Global Middle Eastern Speculative Fiction,;” “Forms of Resilience: African Fiction and the Crisis of Capitalism;” “Al-Tajrīb (Experimentalism) in the Moroccan New Novel and the Debate over Legitimacy;” “Wonders and Curiosities: Itinerant Writing Across Ottoman Worlds.”

Selected Publications

  • The Literary Qurʾan: Narrative Ethics in the Maghreb. New York: Fordham University Press, 2019.
  • “Palestine and the Aesthetics of the Future Impossible.” Interventions: Journal of Postcolonial Studies (Forthcoming).
  • “Abdelwahab Meddeb and the Po/Ethics of Sufism.” Expressions Maghrébines 16.2 (Winter 2017): 95-115.
  • “Printed Matter(s): Critical Histories and Perspectives on Tunisian Cultural Journals,” ALIF: A Journal of Comparative Poetics 37 (2017): 140-168.
  • “Lessons from the Maghreb.” In Arabic Literature in the Classroom: Teaching Methods, Theories, Themes and Texts, Ed. Muhsin al-Musawi. New York & London: Routledge, 2017: 109-129.
  •  “Heteroglossia and the Poetics of the Roman Maghrébin,” Contemporary French and Francophone Studies: SITES 20.2 (2016): 8-17.
  • “Revolutionary Eschatology: Islam and the End of Time in al-āhir Waṭṭār’s al-Zilzāl,Journal of Arabic Literature 42.2-3 (2011): 120-147.
  • “Apocalyptic Pasts, Orwellian Futures: Elle Flanders’ Zero Degrees of Separation,” GLQ 16.4 (2010): 611-621.


  • Arab/ic Literature & Criticism
  • North African Literature, Film & Visual Culture
  • Comparative Literary Criticism
  • Aesthetic Philosophy
  • Speculative & Science Fiction
  • Narrative Theory in Film & Literature
  • Literary & Visual Cultures of Islam
  • Gender in the Middle East & North Africa