Elias Muhanna

Director, Center for Middle East Studies, Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and History


Elias Muhanna is Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and History at Brown University, and the Director of the Center for Middle East Studies. He is a scholar of Classical Arabic Literature and medieval Islamic history, with a focus on the encyclopedic traditions of the Islamic world, the history of the Arabic language, and the cultural production of the Mamluk Empire. Muhanna is a frequent commentator on contemporary politics and culture in the Middle East, and his essays and criticism appear regularly in the mainstream press. He has written for The New Yorker, The London Review of Books, The New York Times, The Nation, and other periodicals.


Diyab, Hanna. The Book of Travels. Translated by Elias Muhanna. New York: New York University Press, 2021.

“Realms of Information in the Medieval Islamic World.” In Information: A Historical Companion, edited by Ann Blair, Paul Duguid, Anja Goeing, and Anthony Grafton, 21-37. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2021.

“Reinventing Islam,” London Review of Books, Feb. 25, 2021

“The Art of Copying: Mamluk Manuscript Culture in Theory and Practice.” In In the Author's Hand: Holograph and Authorial Manuscripts in the Islamic Handwritten Tradition, edited by Frédéric Bauden and Élise Franssen, 232-259. Leiden: Brill, 2020.

The World in a Book: al-Nuwayri and the Islamic Encyclopedic Tradition. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2018.

“A New History of Arabia, Written in Stone,” The New Yorker (Culture Desk, online edition), May 23, 2018.

Shihab al-Din al-Nuwayri, The Ultimate Ambition in the Arts of Erudition: A Compendium of Knowledge from the Classical Islamic World. Translated by Elias Muhanna. New York: Penguin, 2016.

“Is Lebanon’s New Electoral System a Path Out of Sectarianism?” The New Yorker (News Desk, online edition), June 29, 2017.


The Arab Renaissance

The 1,001 Nights

The Quran and its Readers

Before Wikipedia

The Problem of the Vernacular

A Classical Islamic Education

The Literature of Muslim Spain

Islam and Liberalism