Although Islam represents the second largest religion in Europe today, Islam and 'the West' are generally regarded as mutually exclusive. This course allows students to examine the representation of ... read more
Although Islam represents the second largest religion in Europe today, Islam and 'the West' are generally regarded as mutually exclusive. This course allows students to examine the representation of Islam in Western European literature. In the first half of the semester, we will discuss the European literary imagination vis-à-vis Islam in early modern Europe and investigate the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century fascination with the Orient. Students will read excerpts from Dante's Inferno, Shakespeare's Othello, the first eighteenth-century translation of the Arabian Nights and ask what attracted Goethe to Persian poetry. The syllabus incorporates texts that capture cross-cultural exchange processes between Judeo-Christian and Muslim worlds, including conversion narratives and literature concerning the practice of "going native" among European travelers in the Middle East.
The second half of the course is dedicated to the place of Islam in contemporary Europe. Europe's Islam takes up some of the controversial and thought-provoking debates at the turn of the millennium. Among them is the fatwa following the publication of Salman Rushdie's Satanic Verses, the headscarf-debate in France and Germany, and the murder of a Dutch director by a Muslim fundamentalist. A selection of German, Dutch, French, and British films will afford the opportunity to discuss honor killings and allegations of blasphemy and heresy in Europe. This course offers students new pathways of thinking about the historical relationship between Islam and Europe and discusses the present-day demand that Muslims Westernize, integrate, and assimilate.