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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Middle Eastern Studies
University Associate Professor in Modern Arabic Literature and Culture
Email address: 
+44 (0)1223 765083
Fellow of: 
Newnham College

Charis Olszok studied French and Arabic at the University of Oxford, before going on to complete her MA in Arabic Literature and her PhD at SOAS, with a scholarship from the Wolfson Foundation. She finished her PhD in 2016, looking at the depiction of animals in modern Libyan fiction from 1965-2011. In the course of her work, she examined how animals were used to formulate protest against Gaddafi’s dictatorial regime, and comment upon the country’s sudden oil wealth and rapidly changing social realities. She also focused on how portrayals of animals were constituted through the Islamic, Sufi and folkloric influences on Libyan fiction, relating them to other intriguing examples of animal depiction within the broader Arabic literary tradition. Following her PhD, she joined the University of Cambridge as Lecturer in Modern Arabic Literature and Culture, and as a Bye-Fellow of King’s College. In addition to her research, she has translated numerous short works of modern Arabic fiction into English, as well as two novels.

Teaching responsibilities: 

Dr Olszok teaches intermediate and advanced literary Arabic

Supervision information: 

Dr Olszok is happy to supervise students who wish to work in fields of Arabic literature in which she has expertise.

Research interests: 

Modern and Contemporary Arabic Literature; Comparative Literature; Animal and Eco-critical Studies.

Current PhD students

Dana Al Shahbari: In search of May Ziadeh: Recovery through Archives
Samuel Martin: Reading the Oil City and the Emergence of the Urban Nomad in Saudi Arabian Film and Literature


The Libyan Novel: Humans, Animals and the Poetics of Vulnerability Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press (2020)
Ebola ’76 London: Darf Publishers (2015)
African Titanics London: Darf Publishers (2014)

Articles, Book Chapters etc

Salīm Barakāt’s Weird Ecology Comparative Literature (2023) 75 (4) pp. 415–436 (2023)
Following the Pipeline: Petro-phantoms in Fāḍil al-ʿAzzāwī’s The Last of the Angels (1992) and Imīl Ḥabībī’s Saraya, the Ogre’s Daughter (1991) Journal of Arabic Literature 54 pp. 347–383 (2023)
Comparative Literature, Companion Species and the Camel Comparative Critical Studies 17.1 pp. 47–69 (2020)
The Litterscape and the Nude: History Escapes in Mansur Bushnaf’s al-ʿIlka (Chewing Gum) International Journal of Middle East Studies, 51.1 pp. 1-19 (2019)
Creaturely Memory: Animal Tales and Deep History in Modern Libyan Fiction Middle Eastern Literatures 19.3 pp. 260-277 (2016)
Ibrahim Al-Koni The Literary Encyclopedia (2015)