Elizabeth M. Holt
Elizabeth M. Holt received her Ph.D. in Comparative Literature, and Middle East and Asian Languages and Cultures from Columbia University, and her B.A. in Near Eastern Studies from Harvard University. She is Associate Professor of Arabic in the Division of Languages and Literatures at Bard, and her teaching interests include Arabic literature from the pre-Islamic to the present; the Arabic language at all levels of proficiency; literary theory; and comparative and world literature courses focused on the Cold War, global modernism, and the global diffusion of ideas about Arabic books. She has served as Director of Middle Eastern Studies and of the Arabic program at Bard, is a founding member of Bard’s Translation and Translatability Initiative, and serves on the Editorial Board of the Journal of Arabic Literature.
Elizabeth is the author of Fictitious Capital: Silk, Cotton, and the Rise of the Arabic Novel (Fordham UP 2017). The book reads early Arabic novels of late nineteenth- and twentieth-century Beirut and Cairo as fictions of global finance in the Eastern Mediterranean. The Arabic novels studied in Fictitious Capital both encoded and took form through the hope and fear animating the silk and cotton markets of the region during the slow collapse of the Ottoman Empire and the concomitant rise of British and French empire in the region, an interimperial moment known in Arabic as the Nahdah, a time of renaissance. Arabic novels and finance alike played out in the silk-producing mulberry orchards of Mt. Lebanon and cotton fields of Egypt, among the many brokers and merchants in Beirut’s old markets, on the pages of Arabic newspapers, and through the global stock market. The book was generously supported through a Fulbright IIE Grant to Cairo, a National Endowment for the Humanities fellowship at the American Research Center in Cairo, numerous smaller grants from Columbia University and Bard College, and a generous sabbatical from Bard spent as a research associate at the American University of Beirut. This funding allowed for extensive research in libraries and archives in Cairo, Beirut, Nantes, Aix-en-Provence, and in the New York area.
Elizabeth is presently completing a second book. Entitled Imperious Plots: Cultural Infiltration and Arabic Literature in the Cold War, it is a study of the Arabic literary and media activities of the CIA’s Paris-based Congress for Cultural Freedom (CCF) and the Afro-Asian Writers Association (AAWA), drawing upon the archives of the International Association for Cultural Freedom held at the University of Chicago, those of the CIA, and the pages of the Arabic press. The book shows that during the Eisenhower administration, the CIA attempted to culturally infiltrate the increasingly Soviet-sponsored (if often Mao-inspired) Bandung movement’s calls for Third World solidarity through the CCF. The Arab world and hence Arabic literature became pivotal strategic terrain during the Cold War rise of American empire and the slow collapse of British and French rule in Asia and Africa, with ongoing implications for cultural production in Arabic to this day. The project has benefitted tremendously from the support of the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin’s Europe in the Middle East/the Middle East in Europe (EUME) program and Bard College.
Elizabeth is the author of articles and book chapters, and regularly speaks on the history of Arabic literature, the Cold War, and capitalism in the Eastern Mediterranean. She is the translator of Adelaide al-Bustani’s 1870 “Henry and Amelia.” First published in Beirut’s journal Al-Jinan, it is one of the earliest short stories published by a man or woman in Arabic (it appears in Arabic and English in the bilingual MLA anthology, The Arab Renaissance). Elizabeth is working on a third book entitled Arabic at Sea, on risk and Arabic storytelling in the Mediterranean and the Indian Ocean from the fourteenth century.
Fictitious Capital: Silk, Cotton, and the Rise of the Arabic Novel (Fordham UP 2017)
Michelle Hartman in the Journal of Arabic Literature (2018)
Ghenwa Hayek in Middle Eastern Literatures (2018)
Imperious Plots: Cultural Infiltration and Arabic Literature in the Cold War (in process)
Arabic at Sea (in process)
Articles and Book Chapters
“Al-Ṭayyib Ṣāliḥ’s Season of Migration to the North, the CIA, and the Cultural Cold War after Bandung,” Research in African Literatures Special Issue on African Literary History, the Cold War and “World Literature,” edited by Bhakti Shringapure and Monica Popescu (forthcoming 2019).
“Cairo and the Cultural Cold War for Afro-Asia,” Routledge Handbook of the Global Sixties, edited by Chian Jen, Martin Klimke, Masha Kirasirova, Mary Nolan, Marilyn Young, and Joanna Waley-Cohen (New York: Routledge, 2018).
"Cold War in the Arabic Press: Ḥiwār (Beirut, 1962-67) and the Congress for Cultural Freedom," Campaigning Culture and the Global Cold War: The Journals and Networks of Congress for Cultural Freedom, edited by Charlotte Lerg and Giles Scott-Smith (New York: Palgrave, 2017).
“The Story of Zahra and Its Critics: Feminism and Agency at War,” Arabic Literature for the Classroom: Teaching Methods, Theories, Themes and Texts, edited by Muhsin al-Musawi (New York: Routledge, 2017).
"Narrating the Nahda: The Syrian Protestant College, Al-Muqtataf, and the Rise of Jurji Zaydan," AUB: One Hundred and Fifty, edited by Nadia El Cheikh, Lina Choueri, and Bilal Orfali (Beirut: American University of Beirut Press, 2016).
"‘A Fabrication in Fabrication’: Yaʿqūb Ṣarrūf's Fatāt Miṣr [The Girl of Egypt] and the Fictions of Finance in Colonial Egypt," Al-Abhath 64 (2016).
"From Gardens of Knowledge to Ezbekiyya after Midnight: The Novel and the Arabic Press from Beirut to Cairo, 1870-1892," Middle Eastern Literatures 16:3 Special Issue on Authoring the Nahḍa: Writing the Arabic 19th Century, edited by Kamran Rastegar (December 2013 print/2014 online).
"'Bread or Freedom?': The Congress for Cultural Freedom, the CIA and the Arabic Literary Journal Ḥiwār (1962-67)," Journal of Arabic Literature 44:1 (2013).
“Narrative and the Reading Public in 1870s Beirut,” Journal of Arabic Literature 40:1 (2009).
“‘In a Language that Was Not His Own’: On Ahlam Mustaghanami’s Novel Dhakirat al-Jasad and Its French Translation Mémoires de la chair,” Journal of Arabic Literature 39:1 (2008).
Reprinted in Arabic Literary Thresholds: Sites of Rhetorical Turn in Contemporary Scholarship, edited by Muhsin J. al-Musawi, Leiden, NL: Brill, 2009.
“Cartography and Clandestinité in Leïla Sebbar’s Shérazade: 17 ans, brune, frisée, les yeux verts,” Dialectical Anthropology 29, nos. 3-4 (September 2005).
Translations from the Arabic with critical and historical introductions of
- "Henry and Emilia" (short story published in Al-Jinān 1870) by Adelaide al-Bustani
- "Selected Anecdotes and Announcements from the 1870s Beirut Press,"
The Arab Renaissance: Anthology of Nahda Thought, Literature, and Language, edited by Tarek El-Ariss for the MLA series Texts and Translations, 2018.