Gretchen Head

Humanities (Literature)

Assistant Professor


View Curriculum Vitae

Assistant Professor Gretchen Head is originally from the New York area and has a Bachelor’s degree in English and Middle Eastern Studies from Rutgers University. After spending a year in Egypt on a Fulbright fellowship, she completed her MA and PhD in Arabic literature at the University of Pennsylvania. She has lived, studied, and worked in Palestine, Cairo, and multiple cities in Morocco (Rabat, Tangier, Casablanca, Fez).

After finishing her PhD in 2011, she joined the Department of Comparative Literature at the University of California, Berkeley in 2012 as a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow and Visiting Assistant Professor. She has been the recipient of fellowships and research grants from the Center for Arabic Studies Abroad, the American Institute for Maghreb Studies, and the EUME (Europe in the Middle East)/Forum Transregionale Studien Summer Academy.

Asst Prof Head’s research interests include the roots of the modern novel in Arabic and the genre’s relationship to the pre-modern Arabic/Islamic narrative tradition; the links between historical/philosophical writing and modern narrative; the relationship between traditional Islamic institutions and literary production; literature’s intersection with urban space; gender; and new paradigms of world literature that offer the possibility of greater inclusion of the literatures of the Global South.

Her current book project looks at Moroccan textual production in Arabic from the 14th to the 20th centuries and seeks to disrupt dominant paradigms of literary evolution that view the novel as a hegemonic form that causes the erasure of the indigenous genres that preceded it. It encompasses a wide range of prose literature (autobiographies, travel narratives, historical texts) and questions the assumption that the contemporary forms of narrative, generally considered novels in the Maghreb, should carry this genre signification. Instead, examples of modern narrative are read in terms of their continual contrapuntal engagement with the larger Arabic literary tradition, as texts marked by generic hybridity, apocryphal discourse, and inter-textual significations.

The City in Arabic Literature: Classical and Modern Perspectives
Co-edited volume with Nizar Hermes, Edinburgh University Press (April 2018)

Selected Articles:
“Space, Identity, and Exile in 17th-Century Morocco: The Case of Abū ‘Alī al-Ḥasan al-Yūsī.” Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 47, No. 3/3 (2016) pp. 231-259.

“Transgender Subjects, Fairytales, and Red Light Districts: Strategies of Subversion in Tunisian Women’s Writing under Ben Ali.” Journal of North African Studies, Vol. 21, No. 5 (2016), pp. 810-830.

“‘The Sea Spits Out Corpses:’ Peripherality, Genre, and Affect in the Cosmopolitan Mediterranean.” The Global South, Vol. 9, No. 2 (2015), pp. 38-59.

“Confronting the Right-Thinking Bourgeoisie: Shukrī, Genet, and a Poetics of Inversion.” Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics, Vol. 34 (2014), pp. 151-173.

“The Performative in Ilyās Khūrī’s Bāb al-Shams.” Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 42, No. 2/3 (2011), pp. 148-182.

Selected Book Reviews:
“Improbable Subjects: A Cast of Characters to Voice Nationalism’s Failures.” Muhammad Zafaf, Monarch of the Square: An Anthology of Muhammad Zafzaf’s Short Stories, trans. Mbarek Sryfi and Roger Allen (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2014). SCTIW Review: Journal of the Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World (September 3, 2015)

Sarah Edwards and Jonathan Charley, Writing the Modern City: Literature, Architecture, Modernity. (New York: Routledge, 2012). Traditional Dwellings and Settlements Review, Vol. 26, No. 2 (Spring 2015), pp. 92.

Smolin, Jonathan, Moroccan Noir (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2013). Journal of Arabic Literature, Vol. 45, No. 2 (2014), pp. 268-271.

“New Trends in Arab Feminist Thought.” Rabab Abdulhadi, Evelyn Alsultany, and Nadine Naber eds., Arab and Arab American Feminisms: Gender, Violence and Belonging (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2011); Evelyn Alsultany, Arabs and Muslims in the Media: Race and Representation after 9/11 (New York: NewYork University Press, 2012); Zakia Salime, Between Feminism and Islam: Human Rights and Sharia Law in Morocco (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2011). Women’s Studies Quarterly (WSQ), Special Issue: Engage, Vol. 41, No. 3&4 (Fall/Winter 2013), pp. 287-289.

“The Melancholia of a Generation.” Muḥammad al-Ash‘arī, al-Qaws wa’l-farāshah (al-Dār al-Bayḍā’: al-Markaz al-Thaqāfī al-‘Arabī, 2011). Jadaliyya (May 2012)

Literary Translation:
Justice (al-‘Adl), excerpt, by Fadhila Chabbi (Faḍīlah al-Shābbī)
The Bosphorus Review of Books (September 2017)

Paul Bowles: The Recluse of Tangier (Būl Būwilz wa-‘uzlat ṭanjā) by Mohamed Choukri published as part of a three book set with Jean Genet in Tangier and Tennessee Williams in Tangier under the title In Tangier.
London: Telegram Books (an imprint of Saqi) 2008

“A Clean Kill” (qatl naẓīf) by Raḍwā ‘Āshūr (Radwa Ashour) and accompanying biographical sketch.
Words Without Borders: The Online Magazine for International Literature (June 2004)

Literature and Humanities I & II
World Literature and its Discontents
Dangerous Ideas: The Graphic Novel and Social Critique
Heretics and Deviants: Writing, Rebellion, and Islam