Dr Islam Issa
Islam Issa received his PhD in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, where he worked as a Visiting Lecturer and Teaching Fellow before joining Birmingham City University in 2015.
He teaches across all periods and genres of literature, especially the Early Modern. His research has focused primarily on the modern-day reception of Renaissance and Early Modern English literature in global contexts, with wider interests in literary translation, cultural studies, reception studies, disability studies, and censorship. Islam is the Outreach Officer for the School of English.
An award-winning writer and curator, Islam’s book, Milton in the Arab-Muslim World, won the Milton Society of America’s ‘Outstanding First Book’ award. His exhibition, Stories of Sacrifice, won the Muslim News Awards ‘Excellence in Community Relations’ prize. He has also been a finalist at the British Muslim Awards ‘Services to Education’ category and BCU’s ‘Researcher of the Year’.
Islam has an extensive media and public presence, having appeared on TV and radio around 100 times on over 40 different stations worldwide. He has given public lectures internationally, including a TEDx talk and speeches on behalf of the British Foreign Office. In 2017, he was selected as an AHRC/BBC New Generation Thinker for Radio 3 and BBC Four, making him one of “the ten academics whose research will be made into radio and television programmes for the BBC”.
- BA (Hons) English – Birmingham
- PgCert Learning and Teaching in HE – BCU
- PhD English Literature – Birmingham
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy
- Member of the Milton Society of America
- Member of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies
- Member of the Emerging Literary Translators’ Network
- Member of the Birmingham Translation Studies Research Forum
- Member of the Birmingham Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies
- Renaissance and Early Modern Literature, especially Milton and Shakespeare
- Literature and the arts in the Arab-Muslim world
- Cultural and reception studies
- Literature and disability
- Literary translation
Islam Issa has completed research on the cultural reception of Renaissance and Early Modern literature in today’s global contexts. He is especially interested in the works of John Milton and William Shakespeare, and in linking their texts with the pertinent political, sociological, and theological contexts of the Middle East. This is demonstrated in his award-winning book, Milton in the Arab-Muslim World, the first full-length study of Milton in the Middle East. In the process of exploring reception, his work touches on a number of disciplines including visual art, cultural studies, music, politics, sociology, and theology.
Islam also has a practical and theoretical interest in translation, having interpreted simultaneously for a range of high profile personalities, including ministers, ambassadors, and a Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.. Works that incorporate this interest include his co-edited volume, Milton in Translation, which collects essays on the translation of Milton into over twenty languages, as well as his ongoing translation and annotation of the poet’s works into Arabic.
Outside of literary studies, Islam was part of a team that secured a £100,000 grant from the British Ministry of Defence for a project on Muslims in World War One at the British Muslim Heritage Centre, for which he is an Academic Advisor. He was the project researcher and curator of its high-profile permanent exhibition, which launched with significant media and VIP presence in January 2016. As well as making headlines as the first exhibition devoted to the subject, Islam revealed that “at least 885,000 Muslims were recruited by the Allies”, with the Discovery Channel noting that he "more than doubled the previously estimated figure of 400,000 soldiers after trawling through thousands of personal letters, historic archives, regimental diaries and census reports”.
Islam has since been selected as an Advisor to the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, to Birmingham Museums Trust on the reinterpretation of their collections, and to the Birmingham Museum & Art Gallery on the decennial redesign of the gallery. He also represents the British Foreign Office and British Council internationally at high-profile events, such as the International Arab Film Festival, and his public speeches include a well-received TEDx talk.
Milton in the Arab-Muslim World (New York: Routledge, 2016). Winner of the Milton Society of America's Outstanding First Book Award (2016).
Milton in Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). [ed. with Angelica Duran and Jonathan Olson]
Digital Milton (London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2018). [ed. with David Currell]
“Milton’s Areopagitica in the Arab World Today”, in Reading Milton through Islam, eds. David Currell and François-Xavier Gleyzon (New York: Routledge, forthcoming 2018).
“‘Milton! Thou Shouldst Be Living in These Media’”, in Digital Milton, eds. David Currell and Islam Issa (London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2018). [with David Currell]
“The Online Revolution: Milton and the Internet in the Middle East”, in Digital Milton, eds. David Currell and Islam Issa (London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2018).
“Paradise Lost in Arabic: Images, Style, and Technique”, in Milton in Translation, eds. Angelica Duran, Islam Issa and Jonathan Olson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017).
“From ‘Cambalu’ to ‘El Dorado’” (with Angelica Duran), in Milton in Translation, eds. Angelica Duran, Islam Issa and Jonathan Olson (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). [with Angelica Duran]
“Milton’s Global Impact: the Arabic-Speaking World”, in A New Companion to Milton, ed. Thomas Corns (Oxford: Wiley Blackwell, 2016).
“Our Relationship with the Nile Today: A Consideration Through Romantic Poetry”, in Al-Tarjamah Wal-Hawiyyah Al-Thaqāfiyyah [Translation and Cultural Identity], ed. Mahmud Didamuny (Cairo: Hemmat Lashin Center for Culture & Creativity, 2014), 32-5. [in Arabic].
“Transforming Milton’s Paradise Lost into Arabic”, SEL Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, 55.1 (Winter 2015), 197-214.
“Milton’s Areopagitica in the Arab World Today”, English Studies, 96.1 (February 2015), 82-101.
“Fragmentation, Censorship and an Islamic Journal: A History of the Translations of Milton into Arabic”, Milton Quarterly, 46.4 (December 2012), 219–32. Winner of the Michael K. O’Rourke PhD Best Publication Award (2013).
Sole Researcher and Curator: ‘Stories of Sacrifice’ – the first exhibition devoted to the Muslim contribution to World War One, British Muslim Heritage Centre, Manchester (January 2016 – January 2018).
Content Curator and Academic Advisor: ‘Shakespeare in South Asia’, Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon (May 2017 – September 2018).
Invited Papers and Selected Public Lectures
Plenary paper: “Milton’s ‘Areopagitica’ in the Arab World Today”, Reading Milton through Islam, Beirut, May 2014.
Invited panel: “Who owns Shakespeare?” (with Michael Buffong, Artistic Director of Talawa Theatre Company), Global Shakespeare, SOAS, May 2017.
Invited paper: “Discreet Readers: Censorship and Freedom in the Arab World”, Authority and Ignorance, Birmingham Law School, June 2015.
Invited paper (in Arabic): “Our Relationship with the Nile Today: A Consideration Through Romantic Poetry”, Translation and Cultural Identity, Cairo, May 2014.
Public Poetry Reading, “Eden”, Oxford Foundation: United for Peace Event, Birmingham, May 2017.
Public Lecture: “Book launch: Milton in the Arab-Muslim World”, Birmingham, December 2016.
Public Lecture (in Arabic): “Writing Influences: Essential and Critical” (invited by the European Union on behalf of the British Embassy in Algeria and the British Council), Algiers, November 2016.
Public Lecture (in Arabic): “Celebrating Shakespare in Egypt and Algeria” (invited by the Algerian Ministry of Culture and on behalf of the British Embassy in Algeria and the British Council), Algiers, October 2016.
Public Lecture (in Arabic): “Shakespeare in Arab Popular Culture” (invited by the Algerian Ministry of Culture and on behalf of the British Embassy in Algeria and the British Council), Oran, July 2016.
Public Lecture: “Defining British-Muslim Heritage”, Stories of Sacrifice Exhibition Opening and VIP Gala Dinner, Manchester, January 2016.
Public Lecture: “How not to be ignorant”, TEDx Aylesbury, May 2015.
“Dialectical Interchanges: Milton, the English Renaissance, and the Arab Nahdah”, 25th Barnard Medievan and Renaissance Conference, Barnard College, New York, December 2016.
“Translating Milton: Recreating Eve”, BCU School of English Research Seminar, Birmingham, April 2016.
“‘Areopagitica’, Scripture and Freedoms in the Arab World”, The Eleventh International Milton Symposium, Exeter, July 2015.
“Translation and Reception: John Milton in the Arab-Muslim World”, Translation Studies Research Forum, Birmingham, May 2013.
“Milton in Arabic: Transforming ‘Paradise Lost’ for the Arab-Muslim Reader”, The Tenth International Milton Symposium, Tokyo, August 2012.
“John Milton in Arabic: ‘Paradise Lost’ in the Arab-Islamic World”, Early Modern Studies Conference, Early Modern Research Centre, Reading, July 2012.
“Reading Milton in Arabic: Transforming Religio-Cultural Peripheries”, British Comparative Literature Association Conference, London, January 2012.
“Milton in Arabic: ‘Paradise Lost’ and Religio-Cultural Transformation”, Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies, Birmingham, January 2012.
“Milton’s Engagement with Islam”, Literature Research Seminar, Birmingham, November 2011.
“Milton and Islam: ‘Paradise Lost’ in Arabic in Twenty-First-Century Egypt”, The British Milton Seminar, Birmingham, October 2011.
Islam Issa has appeared on television and radio around 100 times on over 40 different stations worldwide. His work has been covered numerous times by national and international press, for whom he also makes regular contributions.
Islam has been selected as a BBC New Generation Thinker for BBC Radio 3 and BBC Four, making him one of “the ten academics whose research will be made into radio and television programmes for the BBC”.
In 2009, Islam worked as a Research Consultant for BBC Arts on the renowned ‘Poetry Season’ documentary about John Milton, and BBC Drama currently engages his services for consultation on Arabic translations and pronunciations in their scripts. Previously, he was also a sports writer with an international reputation.
Islam's public appearances include a TEDx talk which earned the review: “Islam Issa powerfully brings the personal, the literary and the political together as he challenges us to expand our literary and cultural horizons”.
Selected TV and Radio Appearances (since 2015):
- Al-Arabiya, KSA
- Algérie 3, Algeria
- Al-Nahar, Algeria
- Anadolu Agency, Turkey
- BBC Radio Lancashire, UK (Indus)
- BBC Radio Manchester, UK (Indus)
- BBC World Radio, UK (Newsday)
- British Muslim TV, UK (Behind the Headlines, numerous times)
- Canal Algérie, Algeria
- Dzair News, Algeria
- Echorouk, Algeria
- El Djazairia, Algeria
- Heritage Radio, UK (numerous times)
- Islam Channel, UK (Living the Life)
- Nile Cinema, Egypt
- Radio Algérienne, Algeria (numerous times)
- Radio Islam International, South Africa
- Unity FM, UK (Drive Time, numerous times)
- Voice of Cape FM, South Africa (Drivetime, numerous times)
Selected Press Appearances (since 2015):
- The Guardian, UK (interview)
- History Answers, UK (interview)
- Middle East Eye, UK (interview)
- The National, UAE (interview)
- Birmingham Mail, UK (coverage)
- Al-Arabiya, Saudi Arabia (coverage)
- Antique Bahrain, Bahrain (coverage)
- The Bihar Post, India (coverage)
- Buzzfeed, US (coverage)
- Discovery Channel, US (coverage)
- El-Djoumhouria, Algeria (coverage)
- Hindustan Times, India (coverage)
- Hindustan Times, India (coverage)
- The i newspaper, UK (coverage)
- The Independent, UK (coverage)
- NDTV, India (coverage)
- The New Arab, UK (coverage)
- News 18, India (coverage)
- Shakespeare Magazine, UK (coverage)
Selected TV and Radio Appearances (before 2015):
- Al-Hayat TV, Egypt
- Aljazeera English (News)
- BBC Arabic TV (News numerous times)
- BBC Radio Arabic (News numerous times)
- BBC Radio Five Live (two times, including 5 Live Drive)
- BBC Radio Four (PM Show)
- BBC Radio WM (The Paul Franks Show)
- BBC Two (Newsnight)
- BBC World TV (Bulletin numerous times, News numerous times, Have Your Say, The Hub)
- BBC World Radio (numerous times, including World Have Your Say and Newsday)
- Egyptian Satellite Channel
- Egyptian Channel 2
- ITV1 (Central News)
- Modern Sport, Egypt
- Nile Sports, Egypt
- Radio France International (News Bulletin)
University Press Appearances:
- January 2016: New figures sow twice as many Muslim soldiers supported Allies in WW1
- April 2016: Shakespeare's Sonnets given hip hop twist
- July 2016: Shakespeare's hidden impact on Arab arts
- October 2016: Milton masterpiece may have been influenced by Quran
- November 2016: New letters by WW1 Muslim soldiers disclosed
- December 2016: Literature can provide insight into social and political changes
Links and Social Media
- 'How not to be ignorant' TEDx talk (video)
- BBC Radio 3 column (audio)
- ‘Stories of Sacrifice’ exhibition (video)
- 'Learn from experts at Birmingham City University' 2017 (video)
- 'Learning from Experts in the School of English at Birmingham City University' 2016 (video)
- New Generation Thinkers launch interview (video)
- Twitter: @islamaissa