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Assistant Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature
On leave 2016-17
Alexander Key's interests range across the literary and intellectual history of the Arabic and Persian-speaking worlds from the seventh century, together with Western political thought and philosophy. He received his Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies from Harvard University's Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations in May 2012 and started work at Stanford that same year.
He is currently writing a book, Between the Poets and God: reading for maʿnā in the Arabic theology, lexicography, logic, and poetics of the eleventh century. It looks at ma'na in the thought of Ibn Furak, ar-Raghib al-Isfahani, Ibn Sina, and Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani, and argues that this commonplace yet under-studied Arabic word is the key to these scholars' theology, philosophy, and poetics. Key is also preparing a second book for publication, an intellectual biography of ar-Raghib that includes an edition of Landberg 175, the unicum manuscript of ar-Raghib's poetics.
Key has authored a number of articles on aspects of Classical Arabic literature and culture. These include a forthcoming study of translations from Persian proverbs into Arabic poetry, a chapter co-authored with Peter Adamson on the debate between grammar and logic, a study of Quranic inimitability in ar-Raghib, and an argument against calling Classical Arabic civilization "humanist." Beyond his research, Key teaches an undergraduate course on the "Ethics of Jihad," and is a founding editor of the double-blind peer-reviewed journal for early career scholars: New Middle Eastern Studies.
Ph.D. in Arabic and Islamic Studies, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University, May 2012.
M.A. in Arabic and International Relations, University of St. Andrews, June 2001.