Can a 350-year-old epic poem teach us anything about pluralism and marginalization in the modern world?
Milton in the Arab-Muslim World, the new, award-winning book by Dr. Islam Issa, delves into this question by examining the reception poet John Milton has received from Arab-Muslims, both in the present and past.
The book is almost entirely focused on Milton’s most famous work, the epic poem Paradise Lost, which tells the biblical story of Satan’s temptation of Eve and Adam and Eve’s expulsion from the Garden of Eden.
Dr. Issa takes the reader, chapter by chapter, through comparative interpretations of the poem’s main characters – Satan, God the Son, God the Father, and Adam and Eve – in both Christian and Muslim culture.
While scholars have spent decades studying the West’s interpretation of Arab-Muslim art and literature, the most famous of which is Edward Said’s Orientalism (published by the same publisher, incidentally), very few scholars have focused on Arab-Muslim interpretations of Western art and literature. Dr. Issa set out to fill this gap in literary academia, and has succeeded spectacularly.
A lecturer of English literature at Birmingham City University, Dr. Issa has dedicated his career to studying the intersection between Arab-Muslim and Western culture. He curated the acclaimed first exhibition on Muslims in World War I at the British Muslim Heritage Centre, has advised BBC Arts and BBC Drama, and represented the British Foreign Office internationally, including at the International Arab Film Festival.
In this podcast, Dr. Issa discusses his new book, modern politics, and why literary marginalization is representative of larger social and cultural issues.