Ihab Hassan

From an Interview with
Ihab Hassan

Postmodernism, Etc.:*

by Frank L. Cioffi
Princeton University

Born in Cairo, Egypt, Ihab Hassan followed the path that many bright young Egyptians took in the first half of this century: he trained to become an engineer. After graduating with highest honors from the University of Cairo, Hassan came to the United States to further his study of electrical engineering, and in 1948 he earned his MS in that field at the University of Pennsylvania. Yet he continued on at Penn, changing his field to something that spoke to him, evidently, more deeply than did engineering. He studied literature, and earned two degrees in English--an MA in 1950 and a PhD in 1953.

After a brief period teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Hassan moved to Wesleyan University, where he taught from 1954-1970. Since 1970, he has been the Vilas Research Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee till his retirement in 1999. During his professional career, he has also held visiting professorships in Sweden, Japan, Germany, France, and Austria - as well as at Yale, Trinity College, and the University of Washington.

Over the last forty years, Hassan has won numerous awards and fellowships, including two Guggenheim Fellowships; three Senior Fulbright lectureships; National Endowment for the Humanities grants; research appointments in France, England, Italy, Japan, Australia, and Ireland; and several teaching awards. He was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Uppsala (1996) and the University of Giessen (1999). He has served as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the International Association of University Professors of English.

Ihab Hassan’s bibliography is long, including some fifteen books and 300-odd articles and reviews. Among his critical works are Radical Innocence: Studies in the Contemporary American Novel (1961), The Literature of Silence: Henry Miller and Samuel Beckett (1967), The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature (1971, 1982), Paracriticisms: Seven Speculations of the Times (1975), The Right Promethean Fire: Imagination, Science, and Cultural Change (1980), The Postmodern Turn: Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture (1987). In more recent years, some of Hassan’s work has moved toward autobiography, some toward travel writing: Out of Egypt: Fragments of an Autobiography appeared in 1986, Selves at Risk: Patterns of Quest in Contemporary American Letters in 1990, and Between the Eagle and the Sun: Traces of Japan in 1996. His Rumors of Change: Essays of Five Decades collects portions of earlier works. Hassan continues actively publishing in academic journals, and some of these articles will be alluded to in the interview that follows. The last lustrum has witnessed his publication of In Quest of Nothing: Selected Essays, 1998-2008 (2010) , contributions to a PMLA “Forum on Intellectuals” and the “Millennial Issue,” and “Globalism and Its Discontents” in Profession 1999. Several of his essays have been included in Best Australian Essays for 2000, 2001, 2002, and have been nominated for the Pushcart Prize.

In more recent years, Hassan has turned to fiction writing, publishing short stories in many literary journals, and completing a novel, The Changeling.

Hassan’s writings have been translated into sixteen different languages.

*Used with permission from Style 33, 1 (Fall 1999)
Full text of Frank Cioffi’s interview of Ihab Hassan.

By Ihab Hassan


A Plague of Mendacity:
A Plea for Truth, Trust, Altruism

From Postmodernism to Postmodernity:
the Local/Global Context

The Eagle, the Olive Branch, and the Dream:
Changing Perceptions of America in the World

Maps & Stories:
A Brief Meditation

The Way We Have Become: A Surfeit of Seeming

Despots in the Sand AGNI Online


Empty Attachment

Obituary AGNI online



Silly Putty

About Ihab Hassan

Frank Cioffi’s interview with
Ihab Hassan.

Jerzy Durczak’s interview with
Ihab Hassan.

Bibliography of Ihab Hassan