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Milton in the Arab Muslim world

Dr Islam Issa
Researcher

Dr Islam Issa, School of English

Background

Dr Islam Issa 's book, Milton in the Arab Muslim World, explores the impact the work of 17th Century poet John Milton had on major events in the region such as the Arab Spring and the Syrian Uprising of 2011. It is the first full-length study of the reception of Milton's writings in the Arab-Muslim world. 

Research approach and findings

In his research for the book Dr Issa uncovered the popularity of Milton’s work in the Middle East, particularly due to the shared elements of the Bible and the Quran found in Paradise Lost and the writer’s position as a republican and anti-establishment figurehead. It also found the rise in popularity of Paradise Lost in the area coincided with the Arab Spring protests across the Middle East that even included strong support for the work by members of President Assad’s government publications.

He argues that how largely ignored people and societies perceive literary works can provide an insight into how culture develops and influences society, politics and ideology. Egyptian interpretations of Milton showed the importance of self-change without external intervention, and so unlike the public toppling of Saddam Hussain in Iraq, a self-made uprising eventually overthrew long-serving President Hosni Mubarak.

The book also highlights the lack of emphasis placed on German readings of Milton’s work, instead focussing on the established Anglo-American viewpoints, demonstrating the cultural gap between the UK and Europe that may have influenced the EU referendum results.

Research outputs

The book Milton in the Arab Muslim World was awarded the Outstanding First Book of 2016 from the Milton Society of America.