Issa J. Boullata

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Issa J. Boullata
Issa J. Boullata, September 2012, Montréal
Born (1929-02-25)February 25, 1929
Nationality Palestinian
Citizenship United States
Occupation Scholar, writer, translator

Issa J. Boullata (Arabic: عيسى بُلاطه) is a Palestinian scholar, writer, and translator of Arabic literature.[1] He was born in Jerusalem on February 25, 1929 during the British Mandate of Palestine.[2] He obtained a First Class BA (Honours) in Arabic and Islamic studies in 1964 followed by a PhD in Arabic literature in 1969, both from the University of London. He taught Arabic studies for seven years at Hartford Seminary, Connecticut, before moving to McGill University, Montreal, in 1975.[3] He taught graduate courses in Arabic Literature, Modern Arab Thought, and Qur'anic Studies at McGill's Institute of Islamic Studies until his retirement in 2004, and the honorific title of Emeritus Professor was conferred upon him on September 1, 2009. In his academic career in Hartford and Montreal, he was the supervisor of ten graduate students who wrote their PhD dissertations under his advice as well as thirty-eight who likewise wrote their MA theses——and some of these graduate students' works were later published. He currently lives in Montreal.

Boullata is the author of several books on Arabic literature and poetry, and on the Qur'an. He has also written numerous articles and book reviews for scholarly journals, as well as articles for several encyclopedias. He is a noted translator of Arabic literature and is a two-time winner of the Arkansas Arabic Translation Award. He is a contributing editor of Banipal magazine of London, and his literary translations have appeared in several issues of the magazine. Boullata served as consultant for "The Blue Metropolis Al-Majidi Ibn Dhaher Arab Literary Prize" offered by the Blue Metropolis Foundation at its annual international literary festival in Montreal. Named after the poet Al-Majidi Ibn Dhaher, the prize, worth CAD $5,000, was initiated in 2007 by his efforts with donors. The prize was sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage, and was given yearly to a creative Arab writer at the recommendation of a jury composed of an international roster of poets, novelists and literary professionals. The prize is currently on hiatus, expected to return in 2017 with a new winner.

Boullata's eldest son, Dr. Joseph I. Boullata, is clinical faculty specializing in nutrition, pharmacology and therapeutics in Pennsylvania; his middle son is David Boullata, broadcaster (pseudonym: David Tyler) in Montreal, communications lecturer, and writer; and his youngest son, the Reverend Peter Boullata was the pastor of the Unitarian Universalist First Parish Church in Lexington, Massachusetts and is currently a PhD candidate in the spiritual care and psychotherapy program at Wilfirid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. Kamal Boullata, the well-known painter, art historian, and literary writer, is his brother and lived in Menton, France and now lives in Berlin, Germany.


As author[edit]

  • Outlines of Romanticism in Modern Arabic Poetry (1960), new edition (2014) (in Arabic الرومانسية ومعالمها في الشعر العربي الحديث)
  • Badr Shakir al-Sayyab: His Life and Poetry (1971; 6th ed. 2007) (in Arabic بدر شاكر السياب : حياته وشعره)
  • Modern Arab Poets, 1950–1975 (1976) (an anthology in English translation)
  • Trends and Issues in Contemporary Arab Thought (1990)
  • A Window on Modernism: Studies in the Works of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra (2002) (in Arabic نافذة على الحداثة: دراسات في أدب جبرا إبراهيم جبرا )
  • Homecoming to Jerusalem (1998) (a novel in Arabic عائد إلى القدس)
  • A Retired Gentleman and Other Stories (2007) (a short-story collection in English); republished as True Arab Love and Other Short Stories (2016); translated into French as Amours Arabes (2016)
  • Rocks and a Wisp of Soil (2005) (in Arabic صخر وحفنة من تراب : مقالات في النقد الأدبي ),(essays in literary criticism)
  • The Bells of Memory: A Palestinian Boyhood in Jerusalem (2014)( a memoir, covering years from 1929 to 1948); translated into French as Les Échos de la Mémoire: Une Enfance Palestinienne à Jérusalem(2014).

As editor[edit]

  • Critical Perspectives on Modern Arabic Literature (1980)
  • Tradition and Modernity in Arabic Literature (1997, with Terri DeYoung)
  • Literary Structures of Religious Meaning in the Qur'an (2000)
  • The Miraculous Inimitability of the Holy Qur'an throughout History (2006) (in Arabic إعجاز الفرآن الكريم عـبر التاريخ)

As translator[edit]

As translator from English to Arabic[edit]

See also[edit]

As journal editor[edit]


Two Festschrifts were published to honor Boullata:

  • Tradition, Modernity, and Postmodernity in Arabic Literature : Essays in Honor of Professor Issa J. Boullata, edited by Kamal Abdel-Malek and Wael Hallaq (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 2000)
  • Coming to Terms with the Qur’an: A Volume in Honor of Professor Issa Boullata, McGill University, edited by Khaleel Mohammed and Andrew Rippin (North Haledon, NJ: Islamic Publications International, 2008).


Issa J. Boullata was awarded the MESA Mentoring Award in Nov. 2004 by the Middle East Studies Association of North America in recognition of his excellent teaching and scholarly influence on generations of students.

As PhD and MA supervisor[edit]

Professor Boullata supervised 10 PhD dissertations and 38 MA theses in his higher education career in USA and Canada between 1968 and 2004, and some of them have been published and their authors now occupy respected positions in academic and government institutions.

As Arabic programming consultant[edit]

Since 2006, Boullata has been the Arabic Programming Consultant to Montreal's annual Blue Metropolis International Literary Festival and helped it establish a yearly prize for an Arab author, sponsored by the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage and called Blue Metropolis Al-Majidi Ibn Dhaher Arab Prize.