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February 5, 2010 (REVISED February 12, 2010)
Taha Husayn’s Legacy in the Arab World is Subject Of March 23 Conference At the Library of Congress
Egyptian writer and scholar Taha Husayn (1889-1973) devoted his life to intellectual freedom and the introduction of Western learning into his country. His body of work, which focused on Islamic and Arabic history and literature, had a profound effect on scholarship in the Arab and non-Arab world.
Husayn’s legacy in the Arab world is the subject of a conference to be held at the Library of Congress from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday, March 23, in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the James Madison Building, 101 Independence Avenue S.E., Washington D.C. The event, sponsored jointly by the Library’s African and Middle Eastern Division and the Embassy of Egypt’s Cultural Affairs Office, is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required.
Four scholars will lecture on various aspects of Husayn’s writings: Ahmad Shams al-Din Mustafa al-Haggagi, Abd al-Sattar Abd al-Haqq Halwagy and Sami Sulayman Ahmad Muhammad of Cairo University’s Faculty of Arts will discuss Husayn’s autobiography and the themes of Islamiyyat (Islamic Studies) and Arab enlightenment in Husayn’s writings, respectively. Halim Barakat, formerly with Georgetown University, will speak about Husayn as a pioneer in the discourse between the old and new Arab world.
The lectures will be followed by the screening of a film based on Husayn’s autobiography.
Born in the Egyptian mill town of Maghagha, Husayn was one of 11 children. He suffered eye disease, which left him blind at the age of three. In 1908, he enrolled in the new, secular Egyptian University (forerunner of Cairo University), where he studied with some of the leading Egyptian and European scholars of the time in the field of Arabic and Islamic studies. In 1914, he received the university’s first doctoral degree. He later received a second doctorate from the Sorbonne. After a long, outspoken academic career, Husayn was appointed Egypt’s Minister of Education in 1950. His popular autobiography, "al-Ayyam"—a seminal work in Arabic literature—was translated in nine languages, including English (under the titles "The Days" and "An Egyptian Boyhood"). He continued to write until his death in 1973.
The African and Middle Eastern Division was established in 1978 as part of a reorganization that combined the Near East Section, the Hebraic Section and the African Section. Together they cover some 78 countries and regions from Southern Africa to the Maghreb and from the Middle East to Central Asia. The Near East Section holds many works in Arabic by Iraqi scholars and authors and about Iraq. For more information about the division and its holdings, go to www.loc.gov/rr/amed/.
Founded in 1800, the Library of Congress is the nation’s oldest federal cultural institution. The Library seeks to spark imagination and creativity and to further human understanding and wisdom by providing access to knowledge through its magnificent collections, programs and exhibitions. Many of the Library’s rich resources can be accessed through its website at www.loc.gov and via interactive exhibitions on a personalized website at myLOC.gov.
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