Tandem Project

Bilingual AGYA Summer School ‘In Search of the Reader’

Fostering Arabic as Academic Language

The number of Western-Arab cooperation and exchange programs has increased over the last few years. However, in the humanities and especially in Arabic literary studies an ample divide still remains on how to teach and pursue research in these fields. Research published in Arabic is often neglected by Western colleagues while Arab scholars often neglect research published in German, English, and French. Facing this problematic situation, the international and bilingual AGYA summer school ‘In Search of the Reader: New Approaches to Practices, Functions, and Histories of Reading in Arabic Literature, Arts, and Culture’ has a twofold agenda: to facilitate the systematic exchange of perspectives and experiences between Arab and European scholars, and to foster the active use of Arabic as an academic language among German and European scholars and English among scholars at Arab universities.

Putting the Reader into the Center

Putting the reader in the center - this summer school brought together different methodological and theoretical approaches to the reader in Arabic literature, arts, media, and culture. Twelve young scholars on PhD and postdoc levels from Algeria, France, Germany, Italy, Lebanon, Morocco, and the UK were selected from the submissions on a call for participants. Supported by a linguistic editor and an expert in digital production, the young scholars prepared a digital presentation of their research projects. In the main summer school, which was for the first time conducted in an online format, the participants approached the topic in various formats: Plenary discussions of seminal studies related to the topic (in English and Arabic) were complemented by two public lectures presented by Prof. Dr. Elizabeth Suzanne Kassab, Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Qatar, and Prof. Dr. Konrad Hirschler, Freie Universität Berlin. However, the main focus was laid on the junior scholars’ research projects on practices, functions, and histories of reading to various texts and media, including images, music, and film. 

Topics included:

  • authors, copyists, publishers, critics, scholars, etc. as readers
  • historical and socio-cultural practices and functions of reading (including listening and watching)
  • textual (or medial) conceptualizations of the reader, reading, and readerships
  • empirical approaches to readers, reading communities, and reading practices
  • reading practices according to different genres and media
  • textual (or medial) reader guidance and its aesthetic and epistemic functions
  • theories of the reader and reading in philosophy, literary and cultural studies, media and art studies  

Faced with the ample divide that still remains in the Humanities, and in Arabic Literary Studies in particular, between Arab and European universities, all participants benefitted from the linguistic, cultural, and scientific exchange. This encounter laid the foundations of lasting ties between both individual scholars and the institutions they are affiliated with.

The summer school is part of a series. Previous summer schools have been held in Beirut (Lebanon) on ‘Blickwechsel’: Entangled Perspectives on Theory, Arts and History in the Field of Arabic Literary Studies; in Rabat (Morocco) on ‘Emotions that Matter: Interdisciplinary Approaches to Feeling, Affect, and Body in Arabic Literature, Arts, and Culture’; and in Venice (Italy) on ‘Mapping the Urban: Cities in Arabic Literature, Culture, and Society’.


Media Coverage

By Al-Fanar Media:

In Search of the Reader: AGYA Bilingual Summer School 2021

Watch the highlight video of the summer school and meet the participants.

Video Cover