Director Maher Jarrar addresses the audience. From left: M. Baalbaki,
M. Solh, M. Najm and M. Jeha
redolent of the traditional relationship between the American University
of Beirut and the cultural elite of Ras Beirut inaugurated the Anis K.
Makdisi Program in Literature in the Assembly Hall on October 22. The
audience was filled with dignitaries: Presidents Rashid Al-Solh and Salim
Hoss, AUB Trustee Ghassan Tueni, Ambassadors Nadim Dimashkieh and Khalil
Makkawi, and Ambassador Abdallah Abu Habib representing Associate Prime
Minister Issam Fares. President John Waterbury, Provost Peter Heath, many
members and friends of the Makdisi family, plus a considerable number
of personalities, professors, and students were in the audience.
Anis K. Makdisi (1885-1977), an intellectual and man of literature,
studied and taught for a number of years at AUB. He was one of the founders
of the Department of Arabic in 1925 and served as chair of the department
from 1929 until his retirement in 1950, when he was appointed professor
emeritus. He later was granted the Lebanese Gold Medal for Education,
and was visiting professor at the Institute of Higher Studies in Cairo
and at the University of Tehran. In 1961 he was elected member of the
Arabic Language Academy in Cairo (delivering a lecture every year), and
in 1963 he was granted the Medal of the President of the Republic (Friends
of the Book Club).
Throughout his professional career and after his retirement, Professor
Makdisi published numerous articles and books on Arabic language and literature
in addition to works of criticism and translation. (His translations from
English to Arabic include In Memoriam by Alfred, Lord Tennyson and Mark
Twain's The Prince and the Pauper.) He published his memoirs and a volume,
In the Company of Time, and a volume of his own poetry, Al-Waqafat. With
his brother, Jirjis, he founded a "scientific, literary, and social
journal," Al-Mawrid Al-Safi ("The Clear Spring"), of which
he was co-editor from 1909-1940.
Last year members of the University faculty and the Makdisi family
met to consider the best way to honor Professor Makdisi, and the Anis
K. Makdisi Program in Literature was born and organized under the aegis
of an advisory committee consisting of Provost Peter Heath; Maher Jarrar,
assistant professor of Arabic and director of the program; As'ad Khairallah,
professor of Arabic; Andrew Long, assistant professor of English literature;
and Saree Makdisi, grandson of Anis and associate professor of English
literature at the University of Chicago.
Professor Jarrar, the master of ceremonies, opening the inaugural ceremony
with a review of the life of Professor Makdisi, emphasized his liberal
approach to life and education, his humility, and his belief in nationalism
and freedom from imperialism. Jarrar paid tribute to Makdisi's role as
"the driving force behind. . .the modernization and development of
AUB's Department of Arabic.
Jarrar also set forth the aims of the program: to promote and support
"an interdisciplinary dialogue and an openness to different cultural
forms and traditions in the study of literature, in keeping with the approaches
elaborated in the work of Anis K. Makdisi." He presented the four
main activities of the program: an annual memorial lecture delivered by
a leading literary scholar or a noted author of poetry or prose; a seminar
series on various topics concerning literary and cultural studies to be
offered over the course of a week by scholars, writers, and artists from
outside the University; informal lectures, discussions, and colloquia
designed to promote scholarly dialogue among the academic communities
of Beirut; and two annual student scholarships, the Anis K. Makdisi Graduate
Fellowship and the Anis K. Makdisi Scholarship in Literature for undergraduate
Professor Saree Makdisi, grandson of Anis and member of the Advisory
Committee, spoke of Anis Makdis's pioneering role in determining the course
of Arabic literature in the first half of the twentieth century. Professor
Makdisi described his grandfather's literary work as liberal, its main
concern being supporting exchange with other literary cultures.
Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Khalil Bitar paid special
tribute to the benefits the University and the area of Ras Beirut have
received through the services and hard work of such families as the Makdisis.
President Waterbury cited Anis Makdisi's involvement in the literary
renaissance, the resurgence.
Following the introductory speeches four of Anis Makdisi's friends,
colleagues, and students--Muhammad Baalbaki, Mounah Solh, Dr. Michel Jeha,
and long time member of the Arabic department Dr. Muhammad Y. Najm--recounted
moving accounts of their recollections of their mentor and his work.
Finally, Nadim Makdisi, Anis' son, spoke on behalf of the Makdisi
family. He expressed gratitude for AUB's initiative in establishing the
program, and concluded by reciting some of his father's verses.
NB: The first
seminar sponsored by the Anis K. Makdisi Program in Literature is planned
for December 16 from 9 am until 5 pm with four participants from abroad
talking on the subject of globalization. See the AUB Calendar for further