Boullata, Issa J. 1929-

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BOULLATA, Issa J. 1929-

PERSONAL: Born February 25, 1929, in Jerusalem, Palestine; son of Joseph (a postmaster) and Barbara (a homemaker; maiden name, Atalla) Boullata; married Marita Seward, August 12, 1960; children: Joseph, Barbara, David, Peter. Ethnicity: "Palestinian Arab." Education: University of London, B.A. (with first class honors), 1964, Ph.D., 1969. Politics: Independent. Religion: Christian Orthodox. Hobbies and other interests: Chess, travel, music, community service.

ADDRESSES: Home—4070 Madison Ave., Montreal, Quebec H4B 2T7, Canada. Office—Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, 3485 McTavish St., Montreal, Quebec H3A 1Y1, Canada; fax 514-398-6731. E-mail—[email protected].

CAREER: De La Salle College, Jerusalem, Jordan (now Israel), senior teacher of Arabic literature, 1949-52; Ahliyyah College, Ramallah, Jordan (now Israel), senior teacher of Arabic literature, 1952-53; St. George's School, Jerusalem, Israel, senior teacher of Arabic literature and deputy headmaster, 1953-68; Hartford Theological Seminary, Hartford, CT, professor of Arabic literature and language, 1968-75; McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, professor of Arabic literature and language, 1975-99, part-time teacher of Qur'anic studies, Arabic literature, and modern Arab thought, 1999—.

MEMBER: International Comparative Literature Association, Middle East Studies Association of North America, American Association of Teachers of Arabic (president, 1983), Radius of Arab American Writers, Canadian-Arab Organization for Human Rights (president, 1997-98).

AWARDS, HONORS: Arberry Memorial Prize, Pembroke Arabic Research Group, Cambridge, England, 1972; University of Arkansas Press Awards for translations from Arabic, 1993, for The First Well: A Bethlehem Boyhood, and 1997, for The Square Moon.


Outlines of Romanticism in Modern Arabic Poetry (in Arabic), [Beirut, Lebanon], 1960.

Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: His Life and Poetry (in Arabic), [Beirut, Lebanon], 1971.

(Editor and translator) Modern Arab Poets, 1950-1975, [Washington, DC], 1976.

(Editor) Critical Perspectives on Modern Arabic Literature, [Washington, DC], 1980.

Trends and Issues in Contemporary Arab Thought, [Albany, NY], 1990.

(With Terry DeYoung) Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Literature, [Fayetteville, AR], 1997.

A[unknown]id ila al Quds (novel in Arabic; title means "Return to Jerusalem"), [Beirut, Lebanon], 1998.

Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur'an, Curzon Press (London, England), 2000.

Al-Tajriba al-jam[unknown]ilah (correspondence from Jabra I. Jabra; title means "The Beautiful Experience"), [Beirut, Lebanon], 2001.

N[unknown]afidhah àlá al-had[unknown]athah (title means "Modernism in Arabic"), [Beirut, Lebanon], 2002.

Contributor to encyclopedias. Contributor of numerous articles and reviews and some short stories to scholarly journals. Coeditor, Muslim World, 1970-80; editor of the annual, Al-`Arabiyya, 1978-82; editor of special issues, Oral Tradition, 1989, and Mundus Arabicus, 1992.


Ahmad Amin, My Life, [Leiden, Netherlands], 1978.

Emily Nasrallah, Flight against Time, [Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island, Canada], 1987.

Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, The First Well: A Bethlehem Boyhood, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1995.

Mohamed Berrada, The Game of Forgetting, University of Texas Press (Austin, TX), 1996.

Ghada Samman, The Square Moon, University of Arkansas Press (Fayetteville, AR), 1998.

Mohamed Berrada, Fugitive Light, Syracuse University Press (Syracuse, NY), 2002.

Translator from English into Arabic, including the books Wallace Stevens by William York Tindall, [Beirut, Lebanon], 1962; and Edith Wharton by Louis Auchincloss, [Beirut, Lebanon], 1962.

WORK IN PROGRESS: Translating into English the tenth-century Arabic classic by Ibn `Abd Rabbih, Al-`Iqd al-Farid (title means "The Unique Necklace"), with Roger Allen, ten volumes; research on the contemporary Arabic novel.

SIDELIGHTS: Issa J. Boullata once told CA: "I write in order to express myself and make known my thoughts and feelings. This is best done in my creative Arabic fiction writing. But as a scholar and literary critic, I write mostly in English to present modern Arabic literature and thought and to make Arab culture known in the West. I also translate from Arabic into English for the same purpose. My translations include English renderings of many Arabic poems and of a number of Arabic novels, short stories, and autobiographies. I translate from English to Arabic in order to introduce English or American literature to Arab readers.

"My creative Arabic writing has been influenced by modern fiction writers in the Arab world, as well as in Europe and America. I am fascinated by the way in which words written on paper can be made to create in the mind of the reader a whole universe teeming with characters, events, and images of life and society. Through words I can influence the thoughts and feelings of others with regard to issues I like, causes I defend, and ethical behavior I advocate. But all this has to be done in an artistic manner, aesthetically acceptable and illusively possible.

"As a scholar and literary critic, my purpose in writing is different and so is my method. Here I objectively propose an understanding of a literary work and point out its strengths and/or weaknesses by thorough analysis. I situate it in the context of its social and cultural background, and in the light of its author's life, and I evaluate it on its literary merits of creativity and performance.

"The writing process begins with an idea that I keep mulling over for some time. It perfects itself consciously and unconsciously in my mind before I begin writing. Changes happen during the writing, and new directions for the idea are often opened in the process, but the basic idea remains the mainstay of the written product in the end. Some ideas are deeper than others, stronger in their drive to be expressed, and they eventually result in a better product. I cannot explain this, save by saying that human creativity has its ups and downs. Lucky is the writer who can capture it on the upturn as often as possible—although there is always need for inspiration and exertion of effort."



Abdel-Malek, Kamal, and Wael Hellaq, editors, Tradition, Modernity, and Postmodernity in Arabic Literature, E. J. Brill (Leiden, Netherlands), 2000.

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Boullata, Issa J. 1929-

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