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NEAR E 584 A: Egyptian Cinema: Glamour on the Nile

Meeting Time: 
TTh 6:00pm - 7:50pm
* *
Joint Sections: 
NEAR E 337 A
Terri Deyoung
Terri L. DeYoung

Syllabus Description:

September 30,2020


NEAR E 337 A

 Aut 20: Egyptian Cinema: Glamour On The Nile

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NEAR EAST 337 A/584 A

Glamour on Nile: Egyptian Commercial Cinema

Autumn Quarter 2020



Instructor: Terri DeYoung                                                                       Class Location: Remote

Office: 246 Denny Hall                                                                                  Class Time: TTh

                                                                                                                                    6:00-7:50 PM

Office Hours: By appointment                                     SLN: 19305 (337) or 23398 (584)

Telephone: (206)543-6184



Course Description This quarter the course will focus on the history and development of Egyptian cinema as the venue where Arab film-making most clearly confronted the opportunities and challenges inherent in creating a national film tradition. It will examine a range of topics, including: the transition to sound, the differentiation into genres (with a focus on the examination of the musical and the historical epic), the nationalization of the film industry in the 1960s, the role of the director as auteur (through an assessment of the career s of Youssef Chahine and Hasan al-Imam) and the recovery of the Egyptian film industry after 2000


Since this is a NE prefix course we will only be viewing films subtitled in English. Therefore, no

knowledge of Arabic (or any other language except English) is required

            In Autumn 2020 we will examine eight of the films listed below, one from each of the major periods of cinema in Egypt The films for this quarter are: 1) Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt (1996), 2) Bab al-Hadid (Cairo Station, 1958), 3) El-Nasir Salah al-Din (Saladin, 1963, 4) ) Bayn al-Qasrayn (Palace Walk, 1964), 5) Khalli Balak min Zuzu (Watch Out for Zuzu, 1969) 6) Al Mummia (The Night of Counting Years, 1969), 7) Al-Irhab wa al-Kabab (Terrorism and Barbeque, 1992), Al-Massir (Destiny, 1997) and 9) Asma’ (Asmaa, 2011).


Films will be available through UW Library Streaming Services, Netflix, YouTube or an optional Zoom Session with the instructor.


Learning Objectives:


At the conclusion of the course, students should be familiar with the following:

1) issues surrounding the representation of images in the Islamic world


2) the development of commercial cinema in Egypt from the 1890s to the present day


3) the major genres of film (musicals, comedies, historical epics, literary adaptations and melodramas) produced by Egyptian studios and how they compare to cinema productions in other parts of the Arab world.


4) the major features of the studio system as it developed  in the 20th century in Egypt and what was the framework of the financing system it has been succeeded by


5) the technical achievements of Egyptian filmmakers since the 1920s


6)  the challenges facing Egyptian filmmakers today.


Course Requirements: The grade for this course will be determined through evaluation of the student’s written projects for the course.


Writing Assignments:

                    1) A position paper (at least 2 pp. long) will be due tentatively on Monday  12  October 2020 at midnight. The topic of the paper should be either: “Why am I taking this course?” or “How was Ibn al-Haytham’s theory of optics influenced by the traditional Muslim prohibitions against the making of images?” This paper will count for 5% of the final course grade.

                    2) A second position paper (at least 2 pp. long), answering either the question 1) “Who is more important to the history of the Egyptian musical, Umm Kulthum or Muhammad ‘Abd al-Wahhab?” or, 2) ”How is the nation presented in Egyptian cinema of the 1930s and 1940s?” will be due tentatively on Monday 26th October 2020 at midnight. It will count for 10% of the final course grade.

                    3) A third position paper (at least 3 pp. long) will tentatively be due Monday 16 November 2020 at midnight. It should answer the prompt: “Many cultural critics have been reluctant to analyze the success of the musical as a cinematic genre in Egypt. Choosing one of the musical films we have viewed so far this quarter, discuss what it can tell us about Egyptian society when it was made.” This paper will count for 15% of the total grade.


In addition to the papers, there will be two sets of (very) short, informal written assignments due during the quarter:


                     A post-lecture reflection to be submitted to Canvas following the Zoom sessions about two of the films we will be looking at early in the quarter: 1) Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt   and 2) Cairo Station (Bab al-Hadid). These “reflections” will count for 10% of the total grade.

                     A set of three questions (see handout posted in Canvas for examples) will be due at the beginning of discussion about each of the following films, 1) Salah al-Din (Al-Nasir Salah al-Din), 2) Al-Mummia (The Night of Counting Years) and 3) Asmaa. See the Assignments List for exact due dates. The questions will count for 15% of the total grade.



Exams: There will be one exam, a take-home final exam (tentatively due Friday 18 December , 2020 by midnight). Students will have the option to substitute (with the instructor’s permission, obtained at least two weeks in advance of the end of classes) a final paper (about 5-8 pages in length) for the take-home final exam. This paper will be due at the same time as the final exam.

 The Take-Home Final Exam or Paper will count for 40% of the final grade.


                    The remaining 5% of the grade will be based on in-class participation. This means that you will be expected to have read (or viewed) the “Primary Readings” before coming to class, and do whatever other reading is necessary so that you can participate actively in the class discussions. Attendance records (according to University of Washington regulations) may not be included in this portion of the grade, so it is up to the student to participate in the class discussion, in order to receive full credit for “class participation.


Writing Credit (“W”):

      If students are interested in obtaining “W” credit for the course, they should contact the instructor as soon as possible. Basically, “W” credit can be awarded for completing all the written assignments for the course (and revising them if necessary) + one 5 page extra paper due by the seventh week of the course (to allow time for revision)



                      Failure to turn in any assignments or take any tests on time will result in an automatic .3 deduction in the student’s grade for that assignment or test. It is the student’s responsibility to ensure that all assignments are submitted on time and in readable format to the instructor.


Plagiarism: Plagiarism occurs whenever someone uses the ideas or writings of another as their own without giving due credit. This applies to both exams and papers. All policies in place concerning academic honesty at the University of Washington apply to this course.  It is the student’s responsibility to become fully informed about those policies. Refer to the University of Washington Student Conduct Code (WAC 478120), for more information on the subject, or Search “Student Academic Responsibility” on the University of Washington homepage.



For 584 Students:

Those taking this course under the “584” number will be required to turn in a paper (of at least 10 pp.) instead of the take-home exam. 584 students should make a separate Zoom appointment to talk about their paper with Professor DeYoung by 6 November 2020. This paper will be due on the last day of Finals week.

                In addition, those enrolled in 584 will be required to prepare 1 presentation (about 15 minutes) to be given in class outlining the background of one of the directors covered in the course.  Students enrolled in the 584 section of the course should consult the instructor about these presentations as soon as possible. The presentation will count for 10% of the final grade. and substitute for the first position paper


                The general policies about plagiarism in force at the University of Washington will be observed in this course (this applies to both 337 and 584 numbers).


Course Schedule and Readings:

The exact schedule of course readings will be found on the “Assignments” page (posted in the Files section) of the Canvas website for this course (which will be made available the second week of classes).

                “Primary Readings” This section on the Assignments page will identify films to be viewed (primarily on YouTube) before the indicated class meetings. In addition a selection of translated texts or articles will be listed for some weeks of class. These texts will be made available on Canvas or e-mail directly to students during the quarter. If you think you cannot receive texts by through Canvas or by e-mail attachment, please talk to the instructor individually as soon as possible, in order to make suitable arrangements so that you can get access to the texts as quickly as possible.

                ”Recommended Readings” are for the most part available in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library, on reserve (as an e-book). “

                Supplementary” and other listed background readings will mostly be found in the Suzzallo/Allen library, either in the Reference area or the stacks. You should see the instructor if you have any difficulty obtaining one of these recommended or optional readings.




Recommendations: Professor DeYoung will be happy to write a recommendation for any student who receives a 3.8 (or above) in this course or any other of her courses.


Exam Comments: If you would like to have your Final Exam questions returned to you (with comments), let me know at the time you turn in your exam. You will be able to contact me via e-mail to make arrangements to have me send you the corrected exam (as an attachment) starting Winter Quarter 2121.


Additional Credits: If a student wants to sign up for additional credits for the class or do independent studies (including senior essays) in other quarters, s/he needs to contact the instructor as soon as possible. All such requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.


For Students With Special Needs: If you would like to request academic accommodations due to a disability, please contact Disabled Student Services, 448 Schmitz, (206) 543-8924 (V/TTY). If you have a letter from Disabled Student Services indicating you have a disability that requires academic accommodations, please send the letter to the instructor as soon as possible and plan to set up a private conversation on Zoom so we can discuss the accommodations you might need for the class.


Religious Accommodation starting in Autumn 2019, the University of Washington implemented the following new policy about arrangements for religious observances:


“Washington state law requires that UW develop a policy for accommodation of student absences or significant hardship due to reasons of faith or conscience, or for organized religious activities. The UW’s policy, including more information about how to request an accommodation, is available at Religious Accommodations Policy ( Accommodations must be requested within the first two weeks of this course using the Religious Accommodations Request form (”

More information on the policy is available on the webpage for the Office of the University Registrar.


Classroom Courtesy: In an online course, our communication will visible to all. For fully private communication, you should use individual email or send a message to the instructor on Canvas. You should log in to class on time. Test your camera and audio prior to the session.


 Please do not attend online lessons in your pajamas or while in bed.


It is better not to have private conversations not relevant to the course content (everyone can hear what you are saying) during the Zoom sessions. The chat function will be enabled during the class, and you are free to use it.


Hydration is important. Therefore it is more than acceptable to drink water (or other beverages) during class.   Since the consumption of food during sessions often interferes with class participation and is distracting to others, you are requested to avoid this during the Zoom sessions. Your cooperation with these requests will be appreciated


Communications Devices: Please do not use cell phones (or other communications devices) for making calls while logged into Zoom. If you must take a call, please log out. As a general rule you should turn phones off during the Zoom session to minimize disturbance.


Class Breaks. Whenever possible, there will be a break of approximately 10 minutes halfway through each class lecture. This will be an opportunity for students to conduct any personal business necessary outside of the Zoom learning environment




Background Reading: Many new and useful critical works about Arabic cinema have become available in the last few decades. Prior to the 1990s there were few materials about Egyptian cinema available in English. The earliest overview of Arab cinema (and still a very useful work) is Lizbeth Malkmus and Roy Armes, Arab and African Filmmaking (London: Zed Books, 1991). Call Number: PN1993.5 A66 M3 1991, print only (available in the Odegaard Undergraduate Library stacks). This book was followed by Viola Shafik’s Arab Cinema: History and Cultural Identity, rev. ed. (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2007). Call Number is: PN1993.5 A65 S5313 2007 (available on-line). Professor Shafik recently published another book specifically on Egyptian film, Popular Egyptian Cinema (Cairo: The American University in Cairo Press, 2006). Call Number is PN1993.5 E3 S424 2007 (available on-line). In 2001, Professor Joel Gordon (University of Arkansas) published a valuable assessment of the “Golden Age” of Egyptian Cinema in 2001: Revolutionary Melodrama. Call Number: PN1993.5 A65 C66 2002 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust). In 2014, Prof. Nathaniel Greenberg (George Mason University) published a study of the postwar film career of the Egyptian novelist Naguib Mahfouz: The Aesthetic of Revolution in the Film and Literature of Naguib Mahfouz (1952-1967), which contains much valuable insight into the Golden Age of Egyptian Cinema. Call Number : PJ7846 A46Z653 2014 (available o- line, 3 user access).

The development of early cinema from Arabic popular theater and drama can be explored in the first instance through M. M. Badawi, Early Arabic Drama (1988). Many of the figures—like Naguib al-Rihani—that Badawi profiles in this book will go on to have a significant impact on Egyptian filmmaking. Call Number PJ8211 B3 1988 (print only). Walter Armbrust’s groundbreaking Mass Culture and Modernism in Egypt (1996) follows in the steps of Badawi’s book and more clearly delineates the popular cultural aspects of Egyptian cinema. Call number: DT107.826 A76 1996 (print only). The same is true of Ziad Fahmy’s Ordinary Egyptians (2011). Call Number: DT70 F225 2011 (also available on online through the UW Libraries webpage).

General Works about Important Genres in Egyptian Film:

            Approximately 1/3 of the films emerging from Egypt between 1930 and 1970 were musicals. Therefore, books that interpret and analyze the musical as a genre of film are particularly important for understanding the Egyptian studio system. Helpful works in this regard include: Corey K. Creekmur and Linda Y. Mokdad (eds.), The International Film Musical, 2013, (available on line through the UW Library website), Raymond Knapp, The American Musical and the Formation of National Identity, 2005 (available on line through the UW Library website), and Rick Altman, The American Film Musical, 1987 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust). The historical epic has also been a staple of Egyptian cinema. Relevant books include Nicholas Haydock and E.L. Risden (eds.), Hollywood in the Holy Land: Essays on Film Depictions of the Crusades and Christian-Muslim Clashes, 2009 Call Number: PN1995.9 M52 H65 2009 (print only) and Steven C. Caton, Lawrence of Arabia: A Film’s Anthropology, 1999. Call Number: PN1997 L353 C38 1999 (available on line through the UW Library website). The history of comedy, of course, far transcends the limits of cinema, but particular works that are relevant to the development of comedy in Egyptian film include Geoff King, Film Comedy, 2002. Call Number PN1995.9 K529 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust),  Mark Winokur, American laughter: immigrants, ethnicity, and 1930s Hollywood film comedy (1996) Call Number: PN1995.9 C55 W52 1996 (1-user access online through Hathi Trust) and Eric Waltz, The Cambridge Introduction to Comedy, 2009. Call Number: PN1922 C27 2009 (print only). Finally, adaptations from other media (especially literature and drama) have had an on-going influence on Egyptian film. General works written on the subject of adaptation that apply to Egyptian cinema include George Bluestone, Novels into Film, 1957 (Call Number: PN1997.85 B5 1957 1-user access online through Hathi Trust) and Deborah Cartmell and Imelda Whelehan (eds.) The Cambridge Companion to Literature on Screen, 2007 (available on online through the UW Libraries webpage)


Notable Figures in the Development of Egyptian Film:

The works (cinematic or otherwise) of the famous Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum provide an insightful perspective on the interchange between musical theater and the cinema in the twentieth century. The essential resource in this regard is Virginia Danielson’s The voice of Egypt : Umm Kulthūm, Arabic song, and Egyptian society in the twentieth century(1997). Call Number: ML420 U46 D36 1997 (available on line through the UW Library webpage. Michal Goldman’s 1996 video, Umm Kulthum: A Voice Like Egypt (available through streaming video from the UW Library) is based on this book. More recently Laura Lohman has examined Umm Kulthum’s post-1967 influence in Umm Kulthūm : artistic agency and the shaping of an Arab legend, 1967-2007  Call Number: ML420 U46  L65 2010 (available on line through the UW Library website).

The Egyptian filmmaker who most embodied the Western prototype of the auteur and its director-centered aesthetic was Youssef Chahine. He pioneered independent, self-financed filmmaking in Egypt, but he got his training in the Hollywood-style film system of Studio Misr. His notable works include almost every genre of popular film in Egypt in the latter half of the twentieth century: film noir, literary adaptation, historical epic, comedy, realistic drama and his most abiding love, the musical. In 2001, Ibrahim Fawal published in the series “World Directors” sponsored by the British Film Institute an exhaustive biography of Chahine, Youssef Chahine, based on extensive interviews with the director. He includes a complete filmography and summaries of each of Chahine’s films in the appendixes. Call Number: PN1998.3 Y688 F39 2001. Although the book is held by more than 187 libraries worldwide, and could therefore normally be easily accessed through interlibrary loan, the University of Washington has neither a print nor an e-book copy of the volume. More recently (2010), Malek Khouri has  published  a study of Chahine’s role in molding Arab nationalist discourse, The Arab national project in Youssef Chahine's cinema, which concentrates usefully on his early work in the Egyptian studio system. Call Number: PN1998.3.S447 K46 2010  (1-user access online through Hathi Trust). 25 January 2021 will be the 95th anniversary of Chahine’s birth. Many celebrations are planned at this time, along with new publications about his life and work.


A useful resource (especially for factual information on individuals, genres and national film traditions) is  The Companion Encyclopedia of Middle Eastern and North African Film, ed. Oliver Leaman (London: Routledge, 2001. Call Number is: PN1993.5 A65 C66 2001 (on line access through the UW Library website) A second valuable informational resource for our course will be Roy Armes, Arab Filmmakers of the Middle East (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2010). Available on-line through the UW Library webpage



Catalog Description: 
History and development of Egyptian cinema. Examines a range of topics, including: the transition to sound, the differentiation into film genres, the nationalization of the film industry in the 1960s, the role of the director as auteur, and the recovery of the Egyptian film industry after 2000.
Last updated: 
June 28, 2020 - 9:21pm