Saree Makdisi received his PhD from the Program in Literature at Duke University in 1993. He is the author of Romantic Imperialism: Universal Empire and the Culture of Modernity (Cambridge University Press, 1998), William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s (University of Chicago Press, 2003) and Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation (WW Norton, 2008, updated and with a new foreword by Alice Walker, 2010), and the co-editor, with Felicity Nussbaum, of The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: Between East and West (Oxford University Press, 2008). He is also the Editor of Nineteenth-Century Literature. His primary area of research is the culture of modernity, especially as it was consolidated in Britain during the Romantic period, and as it developed in relation to the changing dynamics of British imperialism in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.
Romantic Imperialism, which was selected by Choice as an "Outstanding Academic Book of 1998," includes chapters on William Wordsworth, Walter Scott, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron and William Blake. Its exploration of the complex relationship between Romantic-period literary culture and the shifting nature of Britain's imperial project from 1790 to 1830 contributed to the shift in Romantic period scholarship away from narrow and Eurocentric conceptions of literatureand toward an understanding of British literature and culture as indissolubly tied to imperialism, and hence best understood from an imperial, and ultimately a global, perspective. Impossible History continued the story from where Romantic Imperialism left it, examining the ways in which Blakein hisunique method of illuminated printing as well as hispoetry and designsdeveloped a form of resistance to commodity culture (which Blake said had made Englishmen "all intermeasurable one by another"), as well as the demands and pressures of the new form of imperialism that emerged during his lifetime, which he warned would lead to "Eternal Wars & Domineering over others." Currently, Professor Makdisi is completing a book that builds on and extends the work of Romantic Imperialism and Impossible History further into the nineteenth century. The new book, Occidentalism, Race and the Civilizing Mission, explores the nineteenth-century aftermath of the radical struggles of the 1790s. It moves from discussions of Wordsworth, Coleridge, Shelley, Byron and Blake to explorations of the work of Jane Austen, Robert Southey, William Godwin, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Thomas Macaulay, John Stuart Mill and Charles Dickens. The book aims to re-evaluate the significance of Romanticism as one of the key sites of resistance to the imperial culture that would consolidate itself in Britain after 1815, and would go on to affect virtually every aspect of British culture by the end of the nineteenth century.
In addition to his work on British literature and imperial culture, Professor Makdisi has also written extensively on the twentieth and twenty-first century consequences of eighteenth and nineteenth century imperialism. He has been especially interested in the cultural politics of the contemporary Arab world, about which he has written a number of articles for such scholarly journals as boundary 2 and Critical Inquiry, as well as edited volumes. In the spirit of speaking not only to a relatively narrow circle of scholars sharing a common expertise but to a broader public as well, he has written a number of articles on contemporary events which have appeared in such venues as The Los Angeles Times, The Nationand the London Review of Books, and have been widely translated into other languages. He is also the author of Palestine Inside Out: An Everyday Occupation, was published by WW Norton in May, 2008.
His recent academic publications include:
The Arabian Nights in Historical Context: Between East and West, co-edited with Felicity Nussbaum (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008).
"Jane Austen, Empire and Moral Virtue," in Jillian Heydt-Stevenson and Charlotte Sussman, eds., Recognizing the Romantic Novel: New Approaches to British Fiction (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2009).
"Blake and the Ontology of Empire," in Jon Mee and Sarah Haggarty, eds., Blake and Conflict (London: Palgrave, 2008).
"British Literary Imperialism," in James Chandler, ed., The New Cambridge History of English Literature: The Romantic Period(Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009).
"Edward Said and the Style of the Public Intellectual," in Ned Curthoys and Debjani Ganguli, eds., Edward Said: Debating the Legacy of a Public Intellectual (Melbourne, Australia: Melbourne University Press, 2007).
"Immortal Joy: William Blake and the Cultural Politics of Empire," in David Worrall and Steve Clark, eds., Blake, Nation and Empire (London: Palgrave, 2006).
"Blake's Metropolitan Radicalism," in James Chandler and Kevin Gilmartin, eds., Romantic Metropolis: The Urban Scene in British Romanticism, 1780-1840 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).
"Beirut, a City Without History?" in Ussama Makdisi and Paul Silverstein, eds., Memory and Violence in the Middle East and North Africa(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006).
"Blake and the Communist Tradition," in Nicholas Williams, ed., Palgrave Advances in Blake Studies (London: Palgrave, 2005).
Preview William Blake and the Impossible History of the 1790s
He is the convener for the Mellon-funded faculty seminar, The Atlantic Imagination in the Age of Romanticism, 2007-09