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Alexander Key

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akey@stanford.edu

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Alexander Key

Assistant Professor of Arabic and Comparative Literature

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, The Arabic Obsession with Language: theory in the eleventh century. It looks at ma'na in the thought of Ibn Furak, ar-Raghib al-Isfahani, Avicenna, 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 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.

For more details on off-CV academic activities go to Tumblr. For copies of some publications, academia.edu. And for tweets, @AlexanderMKey.

 

Education

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.

COURSES

COMPLIT 252A Classic Arabic Poetry

Introduction to the canon of Classical Arabic Poetry and to the classics of Arabic poetry from the sixth to the twenty-first century. Focus on skills needed to read and understand, from syntax and morphology to dictionaries, encyclopedias, memorization, and the internets. Readings in Arabic. Two years of Arabic at Stanford or equivalent required. Counts for the Arabic Track in the MELLAC Minor.

COMPLIT 252B Classic Arabic Prose

Introduction to Classical Arabic Prose and to the classics of Arabic prose ¿ from the 700s and the dawn of Islam to the 2010s and the Arab Spring. Focus on skills needed to read and understand, from syntax and morphology to dictionaries, encyclopedias, memorization, and the internets. Readings in Arabic. Two years of Arabic at Stanford or equivalent required. Counts for the Arabic Track in the MELLAC Minor.

COMPLIT 171 Ethics of Jihad

Why choose jihad? An introduction to Islamic ethics. Focus on ways in which people have chosen, rejected, or redefined jihad. Evaluation of the norms in moments of ethical and political choice. Topics include jihad in the age of 1001 Nights, jihad in the Arab Renaissance, jihad in Bin Laden's sermons, and the hashtag #MyJihad. All readings and discussion in English.

COMPLIT 38Q Ethics of Jihad

Why choose jihad? An introduction to Islamic ethics. Focus on ways in which people have chosen, rejected, or redefined jihad. Topics include jihad in the age of 1001 Nights, feminist jihad, jihad in Africa, al-Qaida and Hamas, and the hashtag #MyJihad. All readings and discussion in English.

COMPLIT 243B Readings in Avicenna and al-Jurjani

Classical Arabic reading course. Instructor approval required. Pre-requisite: minimum two years of Arabic at Stanford or equivalent.

COMPLIT 101 What is Comparative Literature?

Introduction to theories about reading and theories about thinking. How should we best read novels, plays, short stories, poetry, and a variety of other forms of literary expression? Which ideas get taken across borders by literature, and which ideas do not? What role has literature played in human societies in different times and places? Fulfills the Writing-in-the-Major requirement. Gateway to the Comparative Literature Major.

COMPLIT 101 What is Comparative Literature?

Introduction to theories about reading and theories about thinking. How should we best read novels, plays, short stories, poetry, and a variety of other forms of literary expression? Why compare texts to other texts? What is theory and how does it work? What has literature done and what should it do? Authors will include G.W.F. Hegel, Judith Butler, Jonathan Culler, Arabic Adab, and Gustave Flaubert. Fulfills the Writing in the Major requirement. Gateway to the Comparative Literature Major.