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Nizar Hermes

Department/Program(s):
  • Near Eastern Studies
Position: Lecturer
Title: Lecturer in Near Eastern Studies
Area(s):
  • Arabic-language teaching
  • Modern Arabic literature
Office: 24 Dillon Court West
Phone: 609-258-3608
Office Hours: M 4:30 - 6:30, W 2:30 - 4:30



My teaching interests have been fostered by several years of undergraduate teaching and mentoring at the Institut Supérieur des Langues de Tunis, the University of Northern Iowa, and the University of Toronto. At the University of Toronto I was recruited by the Department of Humanities at the Scarborough Campus in July 2008 to help expand the Arabic unit and the international languages program in general. After the unfortunate cancellation of the languages program, I focused on the publication of my revised doctoral dissertation and a number of other research projects. I had rejoined the Department of Language Studies at the Mississauga Campus and I also helped Professor Emmanuel Nikiema in preparing a plan for the establishment of a promising project called The Centre for Global Fluency and Cultural Understanding.
 
The aforementioned experiences have taught me valuable lessons about learning and helped me to understand what motivates and what may discourage students. I have always believed that successful teaching and learning are the result of reciprocal motivation, commitment, and respect from both teacher and learner. In short, I see my teaching role as a facilitator, able to convey enthusiasm for and curiosity in a subject in a highly positive and joyful environment. I enjoy teaching classical and modern Arabic language, literature, and culture, and I have no doubt that my students did and will enjoy learning them with me. It is my conviction that the real measure of a committed teacher is the message you receive from former students that you have made a difference in their lives.
 
To cite an example of the ways I was—and I am still— able to foster joyful enthusiasm among students in the study of the complex Arabic grammar, I relied on a number of classical humorous anecdotes of simpletons, spongers, misers, drunkards, pompous grammarians, etc. My objective is not only to teach my students grammar, but also to introduce them to a lighter and humanist side of classical Arabic culture. This largely informs a lengthy book chapter entitled “(Post)Classical Arabic Literary Delights: Towards Teaching the Humanistic Literature of the Arabs,” which is appearing in Teaching Arabic Literature, ed. Mushin Jasim al-Musawi (University of Texas at Austin Press, 2014). In this essay, I present two teaching projects: “The Jocular Arab: Humor in Classical Arabic Literature and Culture,” and “Al-Atyabān, or the Two Delights: Food and Intimacy in Classical Arabic Literature and Culture.”
 
I am excited by the growing interest in my project on “Ifranjalism.” A revised version of my dissertation  appeared in Palgrave’s New Middle Ages Series in April 2012. John Tolan, Albrecht Classen, and Niall Christie have reviewed this monograph in Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies (88 [2013]: 310–12), Mediaevistik: International Journal of Interdisciplinary Medieval Research (25 [2012]: 329–31), and The Medieval Review (13.08.05). Additionally, my book chapter, “The Orient’s Medieval ‘Orient (alism)’: The Rihla of Sulayman al-Tajir as a Case Study,” has appeared in Orientalism Revisited: Art, Land, and Voyage, ed. Professor Ian R. Netton (Routledge, 2013: 207–22). 
 
I am equally interested in the views of Europeans in early modern and modern Arabic writings. Another research area of much interest to me is the exploration of the cross-literary and cultural influences between the Arab-Islamic world and the West from the Middle Ages to modern times. For example,  my essay, “Why you Can or Can’t Believe the Arabian Historian Cide Hamete Benengeli: Don Quixote, Islam and the Arabian Literary Heritage,” is due to appear in The Comparatist (38 [May 2014]). Related to this, I have an invitation from Columbia University’s Department of Near Eastern Studies to present a talk on September 26, 2013, entitled “Castilian Blessings on a Moorish Writer and a Moorish Translator: Don Quixote, The Arabian Nights, and the Maqama.”
 
I am also authoring entries on al-Biruni, Ibn al-Haytham, and Ibn al-ʿArabi for the forthcoming The Islamic World: An Encyclopedia of History, Culture, and Society, ed. Gordon D. Newby and James Ciment (New York: M.E. Sharpe).
 
I have a major future project: Utopian and Dystopian Impulses in Pre-modern and Modern Arabic/Islamic Writing ,  and I am looking forward to editing a volume entitled The City in Pre-Modern and Modern Arabic/Islamic Literature.
 
Finally, while I have to admit that my primary research and teaching interests center on premodern Arabic-Islamic Studies, I have always been an intellectual rahhāla (traveler), wandering across disciplines and journeying in different cultural wor(l)ds. The following abridged lines attributed to versatile litterateur and traveler Abu Dulaf (d. 1012) figuratively sum up my tremendous interest in interdisciplinarity in research and teaching:
 
                        And whoever sees himself really free,
                        Let him experience the meaning of the word!
                        Away from home, I spent most of my life,
                        Witnessing wonders of ancient times.
                        My adventurous soul finds peace in alien things,
                        Not in the comfort of the known world.