Nirvana Tanoukhi

Assistant Professor
6117 Helen C. White Hall
(608) 263-9258
E-mail Nirvana Tanoukhi

Theoretical interests:

Comparative Modernisms; History & Theory of Novel; ‘The’ Novel and the Planetary; Narrative Theory; Formalisms & Contextualisms; Literary Pragmatics; Translation

Fields of practice:

20th-21stc. Anglophone Literary Canon: British to Transnational; Postcolonial Literature & Criticism: 1° African, Arabic; 2° Indian, Australian


Ph.D., Modern Thought and Literature, Stanford University
Ph.D. Minor, History

Additional Affiliations at UW

African Languages & Literatures, Middle Eastern Studies

Other Positions

Since 2010, Professor Tanoukhi has been a faculty and Advisory Board member of The Institute for World Literature (Harvard) where she taught "The Scale of World Literature," a core seminar, at the IWL's 3rd summer meeting at Harvard in 2013.  She will offer this seminar again at Harvard in summer 2016.

In 2009-2010 Tanoukhi was a postdoctoral fellow at the Harvard Humanities Center, and in 2010-2011 she was a resident fellow at the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard. In 2010, she was selected by the American Council of Learned Societies as one of fifty New Faculty Fellows in the humanities nationwide.

Select Publications

Articles and Chapters

  • "Surprise Me If You Can" (PMLA, forthcoming 2017.)
  • "The Movement of Specificity." PMLA. 128.2 (May 2013)
  • “African Roads.” The Routledge Companion to World Literature.  Eds. Theo D’haen, David Damrosch, Djelal Kadir.  (Routledge, 2011.)
  • “‘The Most Important Thing Happening’: An Introduction” (with David Palumbo-Liu and Bruce Robbins) to Immanuel Wallerstein and Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture. Eds. David Palumbo-Liu, Bruce Robbins, and Nirvana Tanoukhi. (Duke University Press, 2010.)
  • “The Scale of World Literature.” New Literary History 39.3-4 (2008).
    • Reprinted, in Immanuel Wallerstein and Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture. Eds. David Palumbo-Liu, Bruce Robbins, and Nirvana Tanoukhi. (Duke University Press, 2010.)
    • Reprinted, in The World Literature Reader. (Routledge, 2012)
  • “Rewriting Political Commitment for an Inter-National Canon: Paul Bowles’s For Bread Alone as Translation of Mohamed Choukri’s Al-Khubz Al-Hafi.” Research in African Literatures 34.2 (2003): 125-144.
    • Reprinted, in  Langues et Litteratures: Annales de la Faculté des Lettres et des Sciences Humaines. Rabat, Agdal, Morocco. March 2011.

Edited Volume

Immanuel Wallerstein and Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture. Co-edited with David Palumbo-Liu and Bruce Robbins. (Duke University Press, 2010.)


“The Arab Spring, and Other African Revolutions.”  With political theorist of Africa, Ali Mazrui.  Transition 106.  50th Anniversary Special Issue.  (November 2011.) 



  • Black Scent, Black Taste by Ali Mugri (Yemen). From Arabic. (Seagull Books, forthcoming).
  • Maryam of the Stories by Alawiyya Subuh (Lebanon). From Arabic. (Seagull Books, 2015).
  • Passage to Dusk by Rachid al-Daif (Lebanon). From Arabic.  (Austin: University of Texas Press, 2001).


  • “Sinful” by Iman Bassir (Palestinian)..  Banipal (2003)15-16.  London, UK.
  • “A Man and a Woman” by Buthanya Al-Nasiri (Iraq).  Paintbrush (2002)28.  Kirksville, MO.
  • “A Short History of Samah” by Buthayna Al-Nasiri (Iraq). Banipal (2001)10-11.  London, UK.

Current Research

Current writing on: Theoretical questions of scale, context, and comparison in the reading of (world) literature, and of the value of literary criticism today. Analytical problems related to the study of texts and genres of the postcolonial world, and their modernity.

Recent Areas of interest: the “Classical Imprint” in Postcolonial Drama, Cartoon Realism, “Motivation” in Literature & Behavioral Economics.


Literature & Culture II: 1700 to Present (lecture course required for the major)
----------Organizing theme: "Shackled by Freedom"
The Postcolonial Bildungsroman
Postcolonial Classics, and Their Sequels
The Ghetto in Literature, Film, and Music
Suspense and Suspension: J.M. Coetzee and Ian McEwan
Give and Take: Fictions of Exchange
The Theory of the Novel (graduate seminar)

Recent Books

  • Immanuel Wallerstein and the Problem of the World: System, Scale, Culture

    Nirvana Tanoukhi, David Palumbo-Liu & Bruce Robbins, Eds.

    Duke University Press


    In this collection of essays, leading cultural theorists consider the meaning and implications of world-scale humanist scholarship by engaging with Immanuel Wallerstein’s world-systems analysis. The renowned sociologist developed his influential critical framework to explain the historical and continuing exploitation of the rest of the world by the West.