Dr Islam Issa
Islam Issa is a multi-award-winning writer, curator, and broadcaster. A literary critic and historian, his work has focused primarily on the modern-day reception of Early Modern English literature in global contexts, particularly Shakespeare and Milton, and the cultural history of the Middle East.
Islam brings pioneering approaches and fresh narratives to the fields of literature, history, and cultural studies through an international repertoire of publications, exhibitions, TV and radio appearances, and speaking tours.
Islam has authored Milton in the Arab-Muslim World (2016), Milton in Translation (2017), Digital Milton (2018), and Shakespeare and Terrorism (2021). He has curated the exhibitions Stories of Sacrifice, Shakespeare in South Asia, and Ageless Cleopatra. He has presented the TV documentary Cleopatra and Me (BBC Four) and the radio documentaries The Balcony and Shakespeare and Terrorism (BBC Radio 3). His awards include the Times Higher Education "Research Project of the Year", the Milton Society of America "First Book Award" and "Irene Samuel Memorial Award", the Muslim News Awards "Excellence in Community Relations" prize, and the Greater Birmingham Chamber of Commerce "Future Face of Birmingham: Public Sector and Education".
The university's "Researcher of the Year" for two consecutive years, he joined Birmingham City University in 2015 after receiving his PhD in English Literature from the University of Birmingham, where he also worked as a Visiting Lecturer and Teaching Fellow.
Islam teaches across all periods and genres of literature, especially the Early Modern. He has served as the Outreach Officer for the School of English.
- BA (Hons) English – Birmingham
- PgCert Learning and Teaching in HE – BCU
- PhD English Literature – Birmingham
- Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society (FRAS)
- Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS)
- Fellow of the Royal Society of Arts (FRSA)
- Fellow of the Higher Education Academy (FHEA)
- Fellow of the British Muslim Heritage Centre
- Member of the Association for the Study of the Middle East and Africa
- Member of the British Society for Middle Eastern Studies
- Member of the Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies
- Member of the Emerging Literary Translators’ Network
- Member of the Milton Society of America
- Member of the Modern Language Association
Member of the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association
- Member (founding) of the Translation Studies Research Forum
- Renaissance and Early Modern Literature, especially Milton and Shakespeare
- Cultural history
- Reception theory
- Literary translation
Islam has completed research on the cultural reception of Early Modern literature in global contexts. He is especially interested in the works of John Milton and William Shakespeare, and in linking their texts with pertinent political, sociological, and theological contexts. His work touches on a number of disciplines including visual art, cultural studies, music, politics, sociology, and theology.
Islam's book Milton in the Arab-Muslim World (2016) won the 'Milton Society of America’s First Book Award'. Milton in Translation (2017) won the Milton Society of America’s 'Irene Samuel Memorial Award'. He has also authored (2021) and Digital Milton (2018). Islam has also written regularly for such outlets as The Guardian, Independent, New Statesman, Times Higher Education, and Times Literary Supplement.
Islam has curated a number of exhibitions at prestigious venues. Stories of Sacrifice (2016-18) at the British Muslim Heritage Centre (which also toured to Manchester Central Library and Greater Manchester Police HQ), won the Times Higher Education Awards 'Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences', the Muslim News Awards 'Excellence in Community Relations' prize, and the Manchester Culture Awards 'Highly Commended Exhibition'. Over 50,000 people visited including high-profile celebrities. Its findings were monumental: the Discovery Channel reported that “Issa more than doubled the previously estimated figure of [Muslim WW1] soldiers after trawling through thousands of personal letters, historic archives, regimental diaries and census reports”. Its research has informed the diversity and inclusion strategies of the British Armed Forces and Greater Manchester Police, as well as being utilised by schoolteachers nationally. His other exhibitions include Shakespeare in South Asia at the Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (2017), which toured to the Royal Birmingham Conservatoire, and Ageless Cleopatra (2018), also at Shakespeare’s Birthplace.
Milton Across Borders and Media (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2022). [ed. with Angelica Duran]
Shakespeare and Terrorism (London: Routledge, 2021).
Digital Milton (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018); paperback 2019. [ed. with David Currell]
Milton in Translation (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). [ed. with Angelica Duran and Jonathan Olson]. Winner of the Milton Society of America's Irene Samuel Memorial Award.
Milton in the Arab-Muslim World (New York: Routledge, 2016); paperback 2018. Winner of the Milton Society of America's Outstanding First Book Award.
“Researching Milton in Egypt: Politics, Portraiture, and Pasta”, Milton Studies 63.1 (2021).
“Rethinking Islamophobia: From Renaissance to World War One to the Radical Right”, Oxford Islamic Studies Online 3.1 (Spring 2020). [with Imran Awan]
"Certainly the Muslim is the very devil incarnation: Islamophobia and The Merchant of Venice”, The Muslim World, 108.3 (July 2018), 367-386. [with Imran Awan]
“Milton’s Satan and the struggle for power”, Times Literary Supplement (November 2017).
“Transforming Milton’s Paradise Lost into Arabic”, SEL Studies in English Literature1500-1900, 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).
“Rebel Angels: Milton, Epstein’s Lucifer,and the Kashmiri Sitter”, in Global Milton and Visual Art, eds. Angelica Duran and Mario Murgia (London: Lexington Books, 2021). [with Matthew Geary]
“Milton’s Areopagitica in the Arab World Today”, in Reading Milton through Islam, eds. David Currell and François-Xavier Gleyzon (New York: Routledge, 2018).
“‘Milton! Thou Shouldst Be Living in These Media’”, in Digital Milton, eds. David Currell and Islam Issa (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 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, 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 Translation and Cultural Identity, ed. Mahmud Didamuny (Cairo: Hemmat Lashin Center for Culture & Creativity, 2014).
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). Winner of the Times Higher Education Awards 'Research Project of the Year: Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences'; the Muslim News Awards 'Excellence in Community Relations Prize'; the Manchester Culture Awards ‘Highly Commended Exhibition’. Exhibition tour includes: Greater Manchester Police HQ; Manchester Central Library. VIP visitors include: HRH Charles, Prince of Wales; General Sir Nick Carter (Chief of UK Army); Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London).
Content Curator and Academic Advisor: "Shakespeare in South Asia", Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, Stratford-upon-Avon (May 2017 – September 2018). Exhibition tour includes: Royal Birmingham Conservatoire.
Sole Researcher and Curator: "Ageless Cleopatra", Shakespeare Centre/Shakespeare Birthplace Trust (April 2018).
Selected Magazine/Newspaper Articles
“Why Arab Muslims love Paradise Lost – and their leaders hate it”, The Guardian (September 2017).
“12 things you didn’t know about Paradise Lost”, The New Statesman (October 2017).
Selected Book Reviews
Review of Islamophobia and the Novel, Peter Morey (Columbia University Press, 2018). Modern Philology 118.2 (November 2020).
Review of Revolution for Dummies: Laughing through the Arab Spring, Bassem Youssef (Harper Collins, 2017), Times Higher Education,“What are you reading?”(March 2018).
Review of The Secret Life: Three True Stories of the Digital Age, Andrew O’Hagan (Picador, 2017), Times Higher Education,“What are you reading?”(January 2018).
Review of Shakespeare for Freedom, Ewan Fernie (Cambridge University Press, 2017) and China and Islam, Matthew Erie (Cambridge University Press, 2016). Times Higher Education, “Books of the Year 2017” (December 2017).
Invited Papers and Selected Public Lectures
Invited two-day Course, “Literary Reception: Hegemony, Ownership and Appropriation”, National Autonomous University of Mexico (English Department and Open University), Mexico City, November 2019.
Invited Panel Speaker: “Democratizing and Globalizing Shakespeare for the Public”, 117thPacific and Ancient Modern Language Association Conference, San Diego, November 2019.
Invited Panel Speaker: “Milton and Cultural Difficulty”, The Twelfth International Milton Symposium, Strasbourg, June 2019.
Invited Speaker: “Shakespeare and Arab Popular Culture”, The Institute Seminar, Shakespeare Institute, March 2019.
Keynote Paper: “The Online Revolution: Milton and the Arab Spring”, Journal of Language, Texts and Society Conference, Nottingham, June 2018.
Plenary Paper: “The Politics of Online Reading: Milton, Wikipedia, and the Arab Spring”, BritGrad (the UK’s biggest graduate conference), Stratford-upon-Avon, June 2018.
Plenary paper: “Milton’s ‘Areopagitica’ in the Arab World Today”, Reading Milton through Islam, Beirut, May 2014.
Invited Speaker: “Paradise Lostand Cultural Difficulty”, King’s College London, October 2018.
Invited Panel Speaker: Film screening of Rahm: an adaptation of Measure for Measure, SOAS, London, October 2018.
Invited Facilitator: Radical Mischief Conference’s “Race Provocation”, The Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-upon-Avon, July 2018.
Invited Keynote for Muslim Police Association annual dinner, Manchester, July 2018.
Invited Talk to launch the Stories of Sacrifice exhibition at Manchester Central Library, Manchester, January 2018.
Invited Lecture: “Al-Biruni and the Mongols”, Al-Najah Univeristy, Nablus, November 2017.
Invited Lecture: “Reconsidering Adam and Eve”, Dar- Al-Kalima, Bethlehem, November 2017.
Invited Talk to launch the Stories of Sacrifice exhibition at Greater Manchester Police HQ, Manchester, July 2017.
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 Lecture: “Ageless Cleopatra”, Shakespeare Connected exhibition launch, Shakespeare Centre/Shakespeare Birthplace Trust, April 2018.
Public Lecture: “What Translation Means to Me”,“Milton in Translation” Book Launch,Birmingham, December 2017.
Public Seminar: “Uncovering Islamic Art”, Al-Hoash Gallery, Jerusalem, November 2017.
Public Lecture: “Depictions of Adam and Eve over the centuries”, Khalil Sakakni Cultural Center, Ramallah, November 2017.
Public Seminar: “Taking Ownership: Shakespeare and Arab Popular Culture”, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, September 2017.
Public Lecture: “John Milton in the Arab-Muslim World: Research and Reception”, American University of Beirut, Lebanon, September 2017.
Public Poetry Reading, “Eden”, Oxford Foundation: United for Peace Event, Birmingham, May 2017.
Public Lecture: “Author’s Keynote”, “Milton in the Arab-Muslim World” Book Launch, 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.
“Milton’s Oriental Satan: the Case of the Indian Sitter”, Modern Language Association 2020, Seattle, January 2020.
“‘Bossy Sculptures Graven’: Epstein’sLucifer and Milton”, The Twelfth International Milton Symposium, Strasbourg, June 2019.
“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 well over 100 times on over 50 different stations worldwide. He has also presented documentaries and programmes for BBC television and radio.
In 2017, he was 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”.
Islam's work has been covered numerous times by national and international press, for whom he also makes regular contributions.
He makes regular public appearances and international speaking tours for a range of audiences. From an inspiring TED talk to keynoting at the Muslim Police Association annual dinner to representing the Foreign Office at the International Arab Film Festival, “Issa powerfully brings the personal, the literary and the political together” (review of TEDx talk). Previously, he was also a sports writer with an international reputation.
Documentary Presenter (TV)
- Cleopatra and Me: In Search of a Lost Queen, BBC Four (May 2019)
Documentary Presenter (Radio)
TV and Radio appearances
- For a full list, click here.
Presenter (BBC Radio 3)
- The Shakespeare Sessions: Othello: What it means to be a Moor (April 2020)
- Drama on 3: Othello (April 2020)
- Free Thinking: “Shakespeare for the People” (February/April 2020)
- Arts & Ideas: "Everything to Everybody" (February 2020)
- The Essay: “When Shakespeare Travelled With Me” (March 2018)
- Column: “Whoever loved that loved not at first sight?” (June 2017)
Super Contributor (Radio)
- Ideas: “Better to Reign in Hell”, CBC Radio, Canada (March 2020)
- Music Planet: "Music and Politics in Egypt", BBC Radio 3 (November 2020)
Podcast Featured Guest
Selected appearances on Radio 3
- Independent, UK (March 2017) – front page
- TRT World, Turkey (May 2017)
- Independent, Turkey (June 2017)
- TRT World, Turkey (June 2017)
- Guardian, UK (September 2017)
- Guardian (audio version of article via Curio), UK (September 2017)
Selected Press Coverage (since 2015)
Press coverage of Islam's work worldwide in: Algeria, Bahrain Canada, China, Hungary, India, Mexico, Poland, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, UAE, UK, US, and the Vatican. Examples include:
- Beyond the Trenches, UK (interview)
- Eastern Eye, UK (interview)
- Guardian, UK (interview)
- Guardian, UK (interview and report on new book)
- History Answers, UK (interview)
- Middle East Eye, UK (interview)
- Muftah Magazine, UK (podcast interview)
- National Newspaper, UAE (interview)
- Scroll, India (interview)
- Voices of War and Peace, UK (interview)
- Birmingham Mail, UK
- Antique Bahrain, Bahrain
- Asian Leader, UK – front page 1 and front page 2.
- Buzzfeed, US
- Discovery Channel, US
- Express and Star, UK (2 times)
- Fine Books Magazine, US
- Hindustan Times, India (4 times)
- i newspaper, UK
- Independent, UK
- NDTV, India
- New Arab, UK
- News 18, India
- News (Official), Vatican
- Shakespeare Magazine, UK (2 times)
- Veracruz Post, Mexico
- Weekly Standard, US
Work With Industry
Islam has officially represented the British Foreign Office and British Council at numerous events worldwide
He was recently appointed Advocacy and Engagement Consultant to the Birmingham City Council / Shakespeare Institute major Shakespeare project "Everything to Everybody”.
Islam has offered consultancy to:
- BBC Arts (Poetry Season documentary on Milton)
- BBC Drama (Arabic translation and pronunciation)
- Birmingham City Council
- Birmingham Museums Trust
- British Muslim Heritage Centre
- Library of Birmingham
- Shakespeare Birthplace Trust
- Shakespeare Institute
Links and Social Media
- Agent: Peters Fraser + Dunlop
- University profile: 'Learn from experts at Birmingham City University' 2017 (video)
- University profile: 'Learning from Experts in the School of English at Birmingham City University' 2016 (video)