Dr Hany Rashwan

Dr Hany Rashwan

School of Languages, Cultures, Art History and Music
Postdoctoral Research Fellow (Arabic rhetoric leader)

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

Hany Rashwan earned his PhD in Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies from SOAS (2016). Prior to joining the GlobalLIT project to lead the Arabic strand, he was an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the American University of Beirut. Dr. Rashwan is the recipient of the International Society for the History of Rhetoric (ISHR) Research Fellowship in 2015.

His research focuses on both Arabic balāghah (poetics) and khitābah (oral public speech and philosophical argumentation). His primary research interest is how to bridge the two disciplines of comparative balāgha and comparative literature to acknowledge the relationship between the ‘poetic form’ and its 'eloquent content.' His primary research goal is to reinvigorate the studies of Islamic balāghah and khitābah in the Euro-American scholarship and to let the studied cultures to speak for themselves without any automatic imposition of Eurocentrism. Dr. Rashwan is currently finishing his book with AUC University Press entitled: Literariness and Aesthetics of ancient Egyptian Literature: Arabic Jinās in Post-Eurocentric Poetics.


PhD in Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies, School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), University of London, 2011 – 2016.


Prior to joining the GlobalLIT project to lead the Arabic strand, I was an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at the American University of Beirut. I completed my PhD in Cultural, Literary and Postcolonial Studies at SOAS, University of London. I defended a thesis on Arabic Jinās, or what can loosely be termed ‘wordplay’, ‘paronomasia’, ‘pun’, examined through a comparative lens with ancient Egyptian rhetorical traditions. Jinās is one of the most critical literary devices present throughout Arabic poetry, literary prose, songs, and proverbs, because it covers an array of phonetic, semantic and graphic associations between words that have similar forms but with different meanings. My study aimed to rediscover the nature of Jinās constructions and the underlying mechanism by which they function in both Arabic and ancient Egyptian, using the linguistic kinship between the two languages.

By training, I am a comparatist whose primary focus is comparative balāghah, which is a new and fertile discipline. Following my first degree in ancient Near Eastern Civilizations at Helwan University, I embarked on MA work studying ancient Egyptian poetry using Arabic balāghah traditions. In 2011, I received a fully-funded scholarship to begin my PhD journey from SOAS, under the supervision of the Arabists Stefan Sperl, and Ayman El-Desouky and the Egyptologist Stephen Quirke (UCL). I studied Arabic balāghah for six months in Egypt during my PhD fieldwork, to strengthen my academic ability to penetrate the field of Comparative Rhetoric.


  • Introduction to comparative rhetoric
  • Analysing Arabic political speech
  • Introduction to Arabic rhetoric


My research focuses on both Arabic balāghah (literary poetics) and khitābah (oral public speech and philosophical argumentation); and how to establish fruitful dialogues between various interrelated disciplines, such as: comparative rhetoric, comparative poetics, comparative literature and translation studies.

I received the International Society for the History of Rhetoric (ISHR) Research Fellowship in 2015. My primary research interest is to bridge the two disciplines of comparative balāghah and comparative poetics to acknowledge the relationship between the ‘poetic form’ and its ‘eloquent content’. My primary research goal is to reinvigorate the studies of Islamic balāghah and khitābah in the Euro-American scholarship and to let the studied cultures to speak for themselves without any automatic imposition of Eurocentrism.

I aim to understand how the early philologists differentiated between Arabic balāghah, as a scientific field that studies the creative interaction between the imagination, poetic form, and eloquent content and khitābah (oral-public speech in the Greek sense of rhetoric). In doing so, I am opening the door to previously unexplored literary and philosophical approaches, under the umbrella of connected fields such as Comparative Rhetoric, Comparative Poetics, and Comparative Literature. I also intend to work on various Arabic rhetorical devices that are still understudied in Euro-American academia, such as moḥassanāt el-lafz and moḥassanāt el-ma‘na (the beautifiers of meaning and vocal form).

Other activities

I have presented my research widely at many international conferences, ranging numerous academic disciplines, mainly related to translation studies, rhetorical and philosophical studies, empirical studies of literature and media, world literature, and Egyptological studies. I have used such academic platforms to promote my comparative balāghah research. I have been invited to lecture on various features of Arabic balāghah, delivering in both Arabic and English languages, including The British Library, The British Museum, Bibliotheca Alexandrina, The Egyptian Museum of Cairo or the Universities of Oxford, Cambridge, and Leiden.


I am currently finishing my book with AUC University Press entitled: Literariness and Aesthetics of ancient Egyptian Literature: Arabic Jinās in Post-Eurocentric Poetics.

The book incorporates the significant discussions of Arabic Jinās both medieval and modern, such as: Ibn al-Muʿtazz (d. 908 AD), Abd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī (d. 1078-9 AD), Rashīd al-Dīn Waṭwāṭ (d. 1177 AD), Ḍiyāʾ al-Dīn ibn al-Athīr (d.1239 AD), Ṣalāḥ al-Dīn al-Ṣafadī (d. 1362 AD). The book is the only work entirely dedicated to carrying out analyses, critical evaluations, and a taxonomy of the Arabic rhetorical device jinās. The Arabic tradition 'balāghah' rediscovered ancient literary registers and tones, which had been entirely obliterated in the Western rhetorical tradition. The book has received several endorsements (listed below) and is expected to be published in 2020.

"Since the days of Champollion, Westerners have found it natural to draw on ancient and modern Indo-European terminology and comparisons for studying the language and literature of ancient Egypt. A century ago, pioneering Egyptian Egyptologist Ahmad Kamal Pasha gained little traction for his plea to compare ancient Egyptian with Arabic, a kindred language from within the same phylum (now known as Afro-Asiatic). Now the time is surely ripe for Hany Rashwan’s bold postcolonial challenge—that applying the Arabic concept of wordplay (Jinās) to ancient Egyptian texts can yield literary and linguistic insights which have thus far eluded his fellow Egyptologists." (Donald Malcolm Reid, professor of Middle East history, University of Washington)

"In this ground-breaking study, Dr Hany Rashwan thoroughly and systematically compares the ancient Egyptian and Arabic traditions of literary ‘word-play’. This is the first time that the workings of these devices in Egyptian texts has been scientifically explored by looking to Arabic practices, rather than by uncritically relying upon western traditions of rhetoric. The approach is original and innovative, and the results are very fruitful. The book has much to offer in the way of insights for the understanding and interpretation of Egyptian textual material. New avenues of research are opened up, which cannot be ignored in future work on style and expression in Egyptian literature, and a fresh light is cast upon on the whole nature of the methods of composition of our Egyptian texts." (John Tait, Professor of Egyptology, University College London)

"By creatively re-reading ancient Egyptian texts through the lens of the classical Arabic poetic tradition Dr. Rashwan has, in a new and surprising manner, been able to reconnect the culture of Arab Egypt to that of its Pharaonic past and thereby unearthed a continuity of vision which is grounded in a distinctly similar approach to the use of poetic language. In doing so has revealed new layers of meaning that are essential for an adequate understanding of the literary merit of the ancient texts. Particularly striking is the manner in which Dr. Rashwan’s work treats the pictographic quality of the script as one additional semantic layer which operates in tandem with the rhetorical devices that function at the linguistic level. Dr. Rashwan’s book is a landmark study which paves the way for an altogether new, more inclusive and integrated understanding of Egypt’s cultural history." (Stefan Sperl, Professor of Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies, SOAS)

“Dr Rashwan offers a fresh perspective on ancient Egyptian literature of the second millennium BC by comparing stylistic devices of the Pharaonic era with Arabic Jinās. He shows with a wealth of individual examples that the commonalities between ancient Egyptian and Arabic might be much stronger than has previously been acknowledged. Set against a discussion of Eurocentrism in Egyptology, the book will be of great interest for Egyptologists, researchers from comparative literature and all those who seek to develop new routes into the study of ancient Egypt, beyond Western models.” (Richard Bussmann, Professor of Egyptology, University of Cologne)

You can find the book proposal on my Academia website

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