Discovering Worlds through Written Word

Iraq native Abdul Sattar Jawad teaches the cross-culture impact of literary works

Name: Abdul Sattar JawadPosition: Professor of comparative literature, Duke Asian and Middle Eastern Studies Years at Duke: 10What I do at Duke: I’m a literary author, and I’ve published 15 books on literature and media studies and journalism, and I teach comparative literature classes such as “Arabian Nights in the West.” I also teach a course on understanding the Middle East. It involves culture, religion, women, human rights and conflicts in the Middle East. The reason is that we would like to introduce American students to a very important region that is the birthplace of three major religions: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. The class provides the student with a better understanding of the Middle East.If I had $5 million, I would: Build a community library. I have a great library back at home, 7,000 books, and if I have that money and there is a representative government in Iraq, a democratic regime, I would turn my private library into a community library (in that country). My first ever job: I’m Iraqi by origin. When we graduated from college, if we went into high school education, we wouldn’t be drafted to the Army. I taught in a Saudi Arabian high school for one year. After that, I went to London, where I got my diploma and Ph.D. in literary journalism. My dream job: I love my job. As a teacher, I love my students like my kids. The best advice I ever received: From my Cambridge professor, Henry Clother. When I graduated with my Ph.D., he presented to me a gift, a nice silver pot engraved with the following: To Dr. Abdul Sattar Jawad, from his student, Henry Clother. He taught me a lesson. He’s my professor, and calling me the doctor and he a student, he wanted me to be a student forever. What I love about Duke: Duke Libraries is a treasure here. I find huge books about T.S. Eliot and Shakespeare. I’m very happy to be at Duke, with the library and the librarians here; they are great people. Without Duke Libraries, I would be in difficult times, a fish out of the pond. When I’m not at work, I like to: I started loving classical music, and I collect records, cassettes of that time. I buy CDs from all over; I traveled to Germany and bought Beethoven, Strauss, Haydn. Sometimes when I’m free, I try to play the guitar. Music is universal. It belongs to all people, all of humanity.An interesting/memorable day at work for me: In 2007, here at the Franklin Center, Duke held a party to see me off, a farewell party, because I was leaving for Harvard and I had formed many friends. On that day, the vice provost (for international affairs), Gilbert Merkx, handed me this sonnet.  He read it and they framed it here. This sonnet went deep into my heart. (Part of the sonnet reads: He came with courage into this strange land / Armed not with a sword but passion for the word / In Arabic or English, whatever came to hand / For the poet and the playwright, read or heard.)