Samuel England

Credentials: Associate Professor; Arabic Literature


Website: Samuel England's website

1404 Van Hise


I’m currently researching and writing a book, provisionally titled Dictating the Middle Ages. It asks how Arab military regimes in the 20th and 21st centuries used the Classical Arabic past to promote themselves among the populace. In many respects, the book builds upon a short section of my first book, Medieval Empires and the Culture of Competition. That study of the Middle Ages led me to briefly consider the arts festivals organized by Saddam Hussein’s Baath Party in Iraq. The more I investigated the topic, the stronger a sense I gained that dictators needed the Middle Ages and the Classical tradition to make themselves seem cultured, legitimate, and benevolent to their people. It’s a neglected topic, I think, and I’m eager to say something new about it in the book.

Dictating the Middle Ages will be my first book-length study of modernity, but for my entire career I’ve had an abiding interest in researching contemporary topics. My articles include several comparative studies of 20th-century Arabic works from Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, and Lebanon. In 2018, I worked with colleagues in Film Studies and New Media on a book called Unwatchable, for publication in early 2019. The volume includes chapters on photography, viral Internet videos, news coverage of the “War on Terror,” iconoclast gallery art, and other examples of images and spectacles that test our capacity for watching. My chapter is on Egyptian cooking television, in context of current political fights over religion and Arabic-language mass media.