Robyn Creswell is an Assistant Professor of Comparative ­Literature at Yale. He is the author of City of Beginnings: Poetic Modernism in Beirut. (July 2020)


Making and Unmaking

‘View of the Remains of the Fountainhead of the Acqua Giulia...’; etching by Giovanni Battista Piranesi, 1753

The Ruins Lesson: Meaning and Material in Western Culture

by Susan Stewart
In an early section of the Poetics, Aristotle notes the curious fact that humans take pleasure in looking at images of things they would find painful to contemplate as actual objects or scenes. The philosopher is working toward an account of tragedy that explains why people go to the theater …

Lebanon’s Infernal Circle

A Palestinian woman pleading with a Christian militiaman during the Lebanese civil war, Beirut, January 1976

Beirut Hellfire Society

by Rawi Hage


by Rawi Hage
“Tell me more,” says a therapist in the Canadian writer Rawi Hage’s second novel, Cockroach (2008). And again, “Tell me. I love long stories.” She’s speaking to the book’s unnamed narrator, an immigrant who recently tried to hang himself from a tree in one of Montreal’s public parks. Therapy is …

A Free Man in Nablus

Isabella Hammad; drawing by Karl Stevens

The Parisian, or Al-Barisi

by Isabella Hammad
In his meditation on the peculiar beauties and burdens of Palestinian life, After the Last Sky, Edward Said writes, “The striking thing about Palestinian prose and prose fiction is its formal instability.” While readers may be tempted to look for political messages, Said suggests that the real drama in this …


Persia’s Hybrid Art

“Technologies of the Image,” now at the Harvard Art Museums, is fascinated by precisely the thing that repelled many Europeans about art of the Qajar period (1779-1925)—its hybrid aesthetic, a combination of “native styles” with European sources and technology. The curators are especially interested in what they call “remediation,” that is, images made in one medium subsequently emulated in another: a painting that incorporates a photographic model, for example, or a lithograph based on a sculpture. The longer one studies them, the more absorbing they become.

Voices from a Different Syria

The characteristic style of Abounaddara, an anonymous Syrian film collective, took shape during the early days of the Syrian uprising, before it became an armed conflict, and the collective’s work remains close to the ethos of the protest movement. But their politics have more to do with challenging the way we consume images than with taking sides in the conflict.

Syria’s Lost Spring

The Syrian People Knows Its Way: This is civil disobedience. There's no excuse for silence anymore, circa 2012

What happened to the Arab Spring in Syria? Amid a wave of jihadist violence extending from Aleppo to Paris, it is sometimes hard to remember that many of the original participants aspired to something dramatically different. In their courage, humor, defiance, and occasional moments of optimism, these protesters already seem to belong to another era—before sectarian war and waves of refugees made the idea of revolution seem quaint.