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Matar, Nabil 1949- (N.I. Matar)

Matar, Nabil 1949- (N.I. Matar)

PERSONAL:

Born November 4, 1949, in Beirut, Lebanon; married, 1986; children: two. Education: American University of Beirut, B.A. (with distinction), 1971, M.A., 1972; University of Cambridge, Emmanuel College, Ph.D., 1976.

ADDRESSES:

Home—Melbourne, FL. Office—Florida Institute of Technology, 150 W. University Blvd., Melbourne, FL 32091. E-mail—[email protected]

CAREER:

Jordan University, Amman, assistant professor of English, 1975-77; American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon, assistant professor of English and civilization sequence, 1977-78, 1979-1982, associate professor, 1983-86; Florida Institute of Technology, Melbourne, associate professor, 1986-88, professor of English, 1988-2007, department head, 1997-2007; University of Minnesota, Minneapolis, professor of English, 2007—. University of Cambridge, Clare Hall, associate fellow, 1978-79; Harvard University, Harvard Divinity School, Fulbright scholar, 1982-83; Salzburg Seminar, Salzburg, Austria, research fellow, 1984; American Institute of Maghrib Studies, research fellow, summer, 2003; British Academy, London, England, visiting professorship, 2006.

WRITINGS:

(Editor) Peter Sterry: Select Writings, P. Lang (New York, NY), 1994.

Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1998.

Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 1999.

(Author of introduction) Daniel J. Vitkus, editor, Piracy, Slavery, and Redemption: Barbary Captivity Narratives from Early Modern England, Columbia University Press (New York, NY), 2001.

Islam for Beginners, For Beginners LLC (Danbury, CT), 2001.

(Editor and translator) In the Lands of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century, Routledge (New York, NY), 2003.

Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689, University Press of Florida (Gainesville, FL), 2005.

Contributor to academic journals, including the Journal of Early Modern History, Muslim World, Journal of Islamic Studies, Renaissance Quarterly, Journal of Palestine Studies, Explorations in Renaissance Culture, Journal of Homosexuality, Notes and Queries, Literature and Theology, and the Anglican Theological Review.

SIDELIGHTS:

Nabil Matar was born on November 4, 1949, in Beirut, Lebanon. He studied at the American University of Beirut, graduating with his undergraduate degree with distinction in 1971, and a master's degree the following year. From there, he continued his education at the University of Cambridge, in England, earning his doctorate from Emmanuel College in 1976. Matar has taught at a number of institutes of higher learning, including Jordan University in Amman, as an assistant professor of English, and his own alma mater, American University of Beirut, first as an assistant professor and then as associate professor of English. In 1986, he took a position on the faculty of the Florida Institute of Technology, in Melbourne, Florida, where he eventually rose to full professor in 1988 and department head in 1997. In the fall of 2007, he moved on to the English department at the University of Minnesota.

Matar's primary areas of research and academic interest include English literature and anything involving interactions between England and Europe and the Islamic world during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, including such diverse topics as the use of Islamic figures in the works of William Shakespeare and Arabic travel writings of the period. As a result of his interests, Matar participated in the Shakespeare and Islam program at the Globe Theater in London in April, 2004, where he was invited to present the annual Sam Wanamaker Fellowship Lecture on the subject of "Shakespeare and the Elizabethan Stage Moor." He has also served as a visiting scholar at institutions such as the British Academy in London, and spent a year at Harvard University Divinity School as a Fulbright Scholar.

Beyond his academic duties, Matar has written for numerous journals, including the Journal of Early Modern History, Muslim World, Journal of Islamic Studies, Renaissance Quarterly, Journal of Palestine Studies, Explorations in Renaissance Culture, Journal of Homosexuality, Notes and Queries, Literature and Theology, and the Anglican Theological Review. He is also the author or editor of a number of books addressing the relationship between England and Europe and the Arab nations during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

In Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, Matar takes a look at the relationship between Britain and the Islamic territories, one that during this period held no stain of colonialism as the Islamic countries in question, primarily near the Mediterranean Sea, had strong military forces that made them unlikely targets for takeover. Instead, Britain was interested in more commercial advantages, trading extensively with the Islamic world, particularly the Ottoman Empire. Prior to the eighteenth century, when the dynamic shifted and England began the serious expansion, led by their formidable naval power, that resulted in the British Empire, the English were actually the lesser partner in the trade agreements held with the Muslim world, while the Ottomans were the ancient, powerful civilization backed by fierce military strength and a fervent religious belief. At the same time, the Islamic world was spreading into Europe, and many Europeans actually converted in an effort to ally themselves with such a vibrant force.

As a means of self-defense against this trend toward Islam, religious leaders and in many cases writers and dramatists, began to weave Islamic figures into their teachings and writings, condemning them as unbelievers and using the world of fantasy to paint negative images of them in an effort to dissuade British citizens from these conversions. Those who successfully converted were also vilified in both sermons and on stage, depicted as having been enslaved or in some way infected by Islam through an exposure to Muslim individuals. Matar shows the many ways in which Islam and the Muslim people made further inroads in British society, discussing the introduction of Arabic language and writing onto British shores, as well as in importing of distinctive items, such as coffee. He also discusses the fact that the cultural spread went both ways, as many Muslims also converted to Christianity during this period.

David S. Katz, reviewing the book for the English Historical Review, remarked: "This is an excellent book on an important theme." Writing for the Journal of Ecclesiastical History, Kevin Sharpe commented that "Matar elucidates for the first time what he rightly argues has been a neglected topic: the influence of Islam on the life and imagination of the early modern English." Bernadette Andrea, reviewing for the Renaissance Quarterly, wrote that "Matar's study is so rich that it is impossible to survey it in a short review." She went on to conclude that the volume "should become the backbone for the next generation of scholarship on early modern Britain and Islam."

Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, published just a year after Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, shows a more reciprocal relationship between the ethnic and cultural groups during the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries. Matar also addresses the attitudes of the British at that time toward exotic foreigners in general, proposing that they looked upon Muslims in much the same way they would American Indians at the time—as savage individuals lacking the true religious ties and civilization of good, Christian folk. Palmira Brummett, in a review for the Journal of Interdisciplinary History, found fault with much of Matar's delineation, noting his lack of set definitions for many of his reference points, including "Turk" and "Muslim." She also noted: "The book's narrative moves from literature to theater and then to captivity narratives with little or no accompanying frame discussion of representational modes." She went on to conclude, however, that "his proposal for triangulating the English—North African—American encounter in the early modern era should help to reshape the terms of the debate among those interested in going beyond the East—West and Muslim—Christian divides."

Margaret Meserve, in a review for the Renaissance Quarterly, remarked that "Matar exposes an intriguing paradox: why, despite unprecedented degrees of cross-cultural contact, did most educated Englishmen continue to entertain false and hostile stereotypes about the Islamic world?" He goes on to suggest that, had contact not been made at this point with the North American continent, resulting in the discovery of that native population, Muslims might have continued to enjoy a more elevated reputation among the English. Meserve noted: "Matar identifies some striking parallels between English misperceptions of native Americans and the peoples of Islam." Shakespeare Studies contributor Charles Burnett praised Matar's concept of this link, stating: "Matar rightly claims that such comparisons have been neglected, since most writers treat the English experience of North America as a completely different subject from that of North African affairs, in spite of the fact that most English voyages to the New World took in North Africa."

Matar served as editor for In the Lands of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century, in which he gathers English translations of a substantial collection of Arabic writings pertaining to travels during medieval and early modern times, in many cases to locations not often written about in non-Arab languages. The travelers in question are both of Muslim and Christian backgrounds, offering a variety of points of view for readers. Mary Baine Campbell, in a review for Clio, faulted the book for its lack of bibliographical information, or annotations, but went on to conclude: "The collection is a gift itself, for which we must be grateful and to which we must attend. No one from this point on can teach a course or section of a course on early modern travel or travel writing without including it. Nabil Matar has done us a service long needed, too long."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

PERIODICALS

American Historical Review, February, 2000, Daniel Statt, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 274; June, 2007, Robert C. Davis, review of Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689, p. 815.

Ariel, January 1, 2004, Jim Ellis, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 247.

Asian Affairs, June, 2000, Peter Clark, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 217.

Clio, fall, 2004, Mary Baine Campbell, review of In the Lands of the Christians: Arabic Travel Writing in the Seventeenth Century, p. 159.

English Historical Review, February, 2004, David S. Katz, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 204.

H-Net: Humanities and Social Sciences Online, August, 2006, Robert J. Allison, review of Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689; April, 2007, Bob McJimsey, review of Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689.

International History Review, September, 2000, Edheim Eldem, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 632.

International Journal of African Historical Studies, winter, 2007, Richard B. Parker, review of Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689, p. 164.

International Journal of Middle East Studies, November, 2007, Richard Serrano, review of Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689, p. 685.

Journal of Ecclesiastical History, January, 2000, Kevin Sharpe, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 179.

Journal of Historical Geography, July, 2001, "New Histories of Old Geographies: The Early Modern Period, East and West," p. 430.

Journal of Interdisciplinary History, spring, 2001, Palmira Brummett, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 617.

Journal of Palestine Studies, spring, 2000, Norbert Scholz, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 108.

Library Journal, July, 1999, Robert James Andrews, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 111.

Middle East Journal, summer, 2003, review of In the Lands of the Christians, p. 528.

Notes and Queries, June, 2000, Mark Hutchings, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 248; June, 2000, Michael G. Brennan, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 249.

Reference & Research Book News, February, 2003, review of In the Lands of the Christians, p. 68.

Renaissance Quarterly, spring, 2000, Bernadette Andrea, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 290; summer, 2003, Margaret Meserve, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 534; spring, 2007, Oumelbanine Zhiri, review of Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689, p. 293.

Shakespeare Studies, January 1, 2001, Charles Burnett, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 236.

Sixteenth Century Journal, fall, 1999, William E. Burns, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 811; spring, 2000, Gregory J. Miller, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 203.

Times Higher Education Supplement, April 2, 1999, Tim Winter, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 24.

Times Literary Supplement, April 23, 1999, Robert Irwin, review of Islam in Britain, 1558-1685, p. 3; September 22, 2000, Alistair Hamilton, review of Turks, Moors, and Englishmen in the Age of Discovery, p. 30.

ONLINE

Florida Institute of Technology Web site,http://my.fit.edu/ (March 18, 2008), faculty profile.

Salaam Web site,http://www.salaam.co.uk/ (March 18, 2008), M.A. Sherif, author profile.

University of Minnesota, Department of English Blog,http://blog.lib.umn.edu/ (May 14, 2007), Professor Matar hiring announcement.

University Press of Florida Web site,http://www.upf.com/ (March 18, 2008), Britain and Barbary, 1589-1689, publisher posting.

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