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Samuel Wilder

PhD Student, Middle Eastern Studies



I studied Classics and Comparative Literature at Brown University, where I first read early Arabic literature in translation and also studied literary theory, semiotics, and the history of aesthetics. After several years working and translating in Cairo, Beirut, and Berlin, I read for an MA in Cultural and Intellectual History at the Warburg Institute, London. My MA thesis, which was awarded with Honours, was entitled ‘The Study of Arabic Poetry in Europe 1518-1661’, and comprised an assessment and historical-philological study of the ‘first wave’ of European scholarly interest in Arabic literature. This paper is being revised to be submitted for publication.

Subject groups/Research projects

Arabic & Persian Studies:

Research Interests

Current Research

Under the supervision of Professor Montgomery, I am studying the work of several poets of the Umayyad period, focusing on the genres of praise (madīḥ) and love-lyric (ghazal), as practiced by poets from the Hijaz during the period of the Second Fitna and the Marwanid caliphate (roughly 680-740 CE). I am seeking to study this poetry, primarily in the diwāns of Kuthayyir ʿAzzah and Ibn Qays al-Ruqayyāt, in connection to the extremely important and turbulent historical events of this period, including the Second Fitna, the building of the Dome of the Rock, and the bombardment of the Kaʿba. I am asking how these poets construct and express subjectivity and communal identity, and attempting to re-examine our understanding of the 'transitional' or 'experimental' nature of Umayyad poetry.

Other Professional Activities

Other Interests

In addition to Classical Arabic poetry and prose and the history of its social construction and transmission, my further academic interests include contemporary poetry in English and Arabic; theories of translation; the history of intellectual systems and religious discourses in the Arab world; history of scholarship; theories of comparative poetics; and the variety of available approaches (scholarly and otherwise) to the reading and teaching of pre-modern literatures. I write poetry in English, and I am interested in the ways in which the study of ‘foreign’ pre-modern and contemporary literatures interacts with contemporary artistic and poetic practices.