Hassan, Ihab Habib, 1925-....

Alternative names
Birth 1925-10-17

Biographical notes:

Ihab Hassan is a prominent literary critic, scholar, and theorist best known for his work on postmodernism.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt on October 17, 1925. He studied electical engineering at the University of Cairo and came to the United States in 1946, where he has remained ever since, to pursue graduate studies at the University of Pennsylvania (Penn). Shortly after receiving his MS in 1948, Hassan concentrated on literary studies and received his Ph. D. from Penn in 1953. Following academic positions at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Wesleyan University, Hassan joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee in 1970 as the Vilas Research Professor of English and Comparative Literature, a position he continues to hold as of 2002.

From the description of Ihab Hassan papers, 1952-2000. (University of California, Irvine). WorldCat record id: 48929005

Historical Background

Ihab Habib Hassan is a prominent critic, scholar, and theorist in the academic study of literature. While focusing his scholarship on the post-war novel, he was among the first to articulate a concept of the postmodern. He was born in Cairo, Egypt on October 17, 1925. The son of a civil servant, he spent his youth in Egypt and eventually attended the University of Cairo to study electrical engineering. Upon graduation in 1946, he received the prestigious Egyptian Educational Mission fellowship and left for the United States to continue his studies in electrical engineering at the University of Pennsylvania. Hassan has lived in the United States ever since.

Hassan completed his Master of Science degree in 1948, but soon decided to abandon engineering for an academic career in literature. He began a doctoral program in English literature at the University of Pennsylvania, receiving his Master's degree in 1950 and his doctorate in 1953. Hassan began his professional career in 1952 as an instructor of English at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, New York. In 1954 he obtained a position at Wesleyan University in Middletown, Connecticut. He was later named the Benjamin L. Waite Professor of English and served as the director of both the College of Letters and the Center for Humanities. In 1970 he joined the faculty at the University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee as the Vilas Professor Emeritus of English and Comparative Literature, a position he continues to hold as of 2002.

During his time at Wesleyan, Hassan published work on contemporary and avant-garde literature, and he has continued to focus on these themes throughout his career. The major publications from his early period are Radical Innocence and The Literature of Silence: Henry Miller & Samuel Beckett . In these works, he attempts to describe the characteristics that distinguish post-war fiction from the literature of high modernism. Hassan continued to pursue the same theme in his Dismemberment of Orpheus, in which he introduced the term "postmodern." Along with Jean-François Lyotard, Hassan was one of the first scholars to articulate a conception of the postmodern, and he has devoted a large portion of his academic career to this. In his best-known works, he describes formal characteristics of the postmodern, such as discontinuity, indeterminacy, and irony. During this period, he also espoused a concept of the "critic as innovator." His major statements in these regards have been Dismemberment of Orpheus, Paracriticisms, and The Right Promethean Fire .

Although Hassan has always been engaged in dialogue with the major trends of literary theory, he cannot be easily classified as belonging to any specific school of literary criticism. During the 1980s, beginning with the publication of his autobiography Out of Egypt, Hassan began to move away from articulating the formal characteristics of postmodernism. In particular, his book Selves at Risk examines themes of quest in contemporary literature, and Between the Eagle and the Sun focuses on cultural exchange between Japan and the United States. Hassan continues to provide insightful commentary on the late twentieth century. As of 2007, he lives and works in Milwaukee.

  • 1925: Ihab Habib Hassan born in Cairo, Egypt on October 17th.
  • 1946: Immigrates to the United States to study engineering at the University of Pennsylvania.
  • 1948: Receives M.S. degree from University of Pennsylvania.
  • 1950: Receives M.A. degree from University of Pennsylvania.
  • 1952: Holds position as instructor in English at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.
  • 1953: Receives Ph. D. degree in English literature from University of Pennsylvania.
  • 1954: Begins as an instructor in English at Wesleyan University and becomes professor of English in 1962.
  • 1956: Becomes a United States citizen.
  • 1961: Radical Innocence: The Contemporary American Novel (Princeton University Press)
  • 1963: Aspects du Hero Americain Contemporain (Lettres Modernes)
  • 1966: Fulbright lecturer in Grenoble, France.
  • 1968: The Literature of Silence: Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett (Knopf)
  • 1970: Joins the faculty at the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee as the Vilas Research Professor of English and Comparative Literature.
  • 1971: The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature (Oxford University Press)
  • 1973: Contemporary American Literature, 1945-1972 (Ungar)
  • 1974: Fulbright lecturer in Nice, France.
  • 1975: Paracriticisms: Seven Speculations of the Times (Illinois University Press)
  • 1980: The Right Promethean Fire: Imagination, Science, and Cultural Change (Illinois University Press)
  • 1986: Out of Egypt: Fragments of an Autobiography (Southern Illinois University Press)
  • 1987: The Postmodern Turn: Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture (Ohio State University Press)
  • 1990: Selves at Risk: Patterns of Quest in Contemporary American Letter (University of Wisconsin Press)
  • 1995: Rumors of Change: Essays of Five Decades (University of Alabama Press)
  • 1996: Between the Eagle and the Sun: Traces of Japan (University of Alabama Press)

From the guide to the Ihab Hassan papers, 1952-2000, (University of California, Irvine. Library. Special Collections and Archives.)


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  • Criticism--Archives
  • American fiction--20th century--History and criticism--Archives
  • Literature, Modern--20th century--History and criticism--Archival resources
  • Fiction--20th century--History and criticism
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  • Literature, Modern--20th century--History and criticism--Archives
  • Literature--History and criticism--Archives
  • Postmodernism (literature)--Archives
  • Hassan, Ihab Habib, 1925--Archives
  • Critical theory--Archives
  • Postmodernism (Literature)--Archival resources
  • American fiction--20th century--History and criticism--Archival resources


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