Editor: How does it feel to be back? What has changed? And what hasn’t changed?
Naous: There are so many new buildings. The Honors College is huge. I still remember when it was a parking lot. But the students haven’t changed. They ask terrific questions in class. And then, outside of class, they have to negotiate the demands of a huge campus that continues to grow.
Ed: What are you teaching this term?
Naous: An Introduction to Postcolonial Studies, which introduces students to basic concepts of postcolonialism, and an upper division class on the Arabian Nights in World Literature.
Ed: What are the basic concepts in postcolonial studies? What are you reading?
Naous: I’m trying to get my students to envision the world that previously colonized people inhabit and consider the remnants of colonization that still exist. Some of the texts we’re reading are J. M. Coetzee’s Waiting for the Barbarians, Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, and Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things.
Ed: I know that you have many research projects going. Tell me a bit about them.
Naous: The book I’m working on is The Arab American Novel and Traveling Poetics, and by poetics I mean the political aesthetic devices that travel from one medium to another. The crux of the project is to look at the selection of Arab American novels as art forms. Critics have tended to focus on political aspects, which is important. But I also want us to think about these novels as art forms and as innovative dialogic gestures. In addition to this book I’m editing a collection of essays that grew out of a conference I organized last spring. It will be called “Identity and Conflict in the Middle East and its Diasporic Cultures.” And I’m also translating a 400-page memoir by a Lebanese feminist who championed women’s roles in building the nation.
Ed: You’re busy! How does your research influence your teaching?
Naous: My research is about connections in a world of disconnections, especially when it comes to the Middle East and the West. How do we give voice to disenfranchised groups, and how do we listen to their struggles and engage with their cultural production? These are some of the questions I want to bring into the classroom.
Ed: What do you do when you aren’t working?
Naous: I like to walk. I also compose music and play guitar.
Ed: Yes, I’ve heard you play. But now I want to know, Mazen, just how many guitars do you have?
Naous: Two… at the moment!