What are social functions of reading literature? While many studies approach Arabic literature primarily through the lens of authors, the literary field or socio-political discourses, my research project “Affective Readings” shifts the focus on the readers. I ask: What do readers read, how and why? Turning away from the model of the ‘ideal reader’ as developed by the reader response criticism, I’m interested in ‘empirical readers’ as they appear on social media. On Facebook, YouTube, Instagram or Goodreads, Arab and non-Arab users post book reviews about their personal reading experiences, often highlighting affective and intimate dimension of reading. Taking Egyptian prose literature from 1990 to 2020 as a case study, I approach emotional reading communities and ask for the importance of emotion to society: How does literature narrate society through emotions? And how does society read literature and is affected by it?

My project comprises of four elements: analysing the role of emotion and affect in literature and society; approaching fiction at large by bringing high-brow literature in dialogue with popular literature; focussing on digital readership on social media and taking their readings seriously; and developing a postcolonial sensitive approach for conducting research on Egyptian literature and society from Germany.

For more information, see the video on YouTube and the post on Trafo: Blog for Transregional Research.