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William Melaney

  • Position: Professor
  • Department: Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • Email: wmelaney@aucegypt.edu
Brief Biography

William D. Melaney is a professor at the Department of English and Comparative Literature at The American University in Cairo (AUC). He holds an MA in English from the University of Chicago and a PhD in comparative literature from Stony Brook University in New York. Melaney served as department chair from the fall of 2004 to the spring of 2006 and again in the spring of 2012. His current teaching fields include eighteenth-century literature, European romanticism, the history of literary criticism, hermeneutics, and recent work in aesthetics. During the spring term, he has offered Quests for the Absolute, The Origins of Drama, Foucault and Cultural History and Spectres of the Other through the literature/philosophy interface. He is currently active in the department’s program for graduate studies.

Melaney has published more than 40 articles in the fields of literary criticism and modern philosophy. His work has appeared in New Literary History, Connecticut Review,  Journal of the Kafka Society of America, Journal of Speculative Philosophy, Journal of the History of Philosophy, International Studies in Philosophy, and The American Journal of Semiotics, among other publications. He has published three books on modernism as a literary and philosophical concept: After Ontology: Literary Theory and Modernist Poetics (SUNY Press, 2001); Material Difference: Modernism and the Allegories of Discourse (Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi Press, 2012); and Alterity and Criticism: Tracing Time in Modern Literature (London and New York: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2017).

Melaney has also published the book Figural Space: Semiotics and the Aesthetic Imaginary (London and New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2021), which explores a new approach to literature in adopting Julia Kristeva’s semiotics as the starting point for reinterpreting Freud and Hegel. A major claim of the book is that Hegel can be read hermeneutically as an aesthetic thinker whose approach to time, language, and imagination needs to be revisited. The poetry of Spenser, Wordsworth, and Shelley, as well as the novels of Proust, Jean Rhys, and Kazuo Ishiguro are explored based on this special method.

How is philosophical aesthetics related to matters of historical reflection? Professor Melaney’s current research commences with an examination of Kant’s aesthetics and then considers how, in the aftermath of Kant, aesthetic questions acquired historical resonance. Modern hermeneutics will subsequently be shown to have made contributions to aesthetics, following an initial opposition to aesthetic thinking. The conclusion of the book will argue that the more recent approaches to aesthetics have social, cultural and political implications.

Melaney has also published a short book of poems entitled Bildungsroman. (Cairo: Safsafa Publishing House, 2017).

Research Interest
  • Comparative Literature
  • Aesthetics from Kant to Rancière
  • Possibilities of World Literature
  • New Readings of Hegel
  • Poetics and Literary History
  • Discourses of Donne: A Genealogy of Critical Memory. Anaphora: Legacy and Memory. London: Interdisciplinary Discourses, 2021. pp. 273-89.
  • Rancière’s Proust: A Rebirth of Aesthetics. Res Cogitans 13:1 (2018): 52-62.
  • Hegel and Semiotics: Beyond the End of Art. New Semiotics: Between Tradition and Innovation Proceedings of the Twelfth World Congress of Semiotics, ed. K. Bankov. New Bulgarian University, 2016. 10 pages.
  • Cosmology in H.D.’s Trilogy: Poetics, Logos and Trace. Analecta Husserliana CXIX. 2016. pp. 275-289.
  • Shelley, Hermeneutics and Poetics: Metaphor as Translation. Translational Hermeneutics: The First Symposium, ed. Radegundis Stolze, John Stanley and Larisa Cercel. Zeta Books, 2015.  pp. 389-408.
  • Blanchot’s Inaugural Poetics: Visibility and the Infinite Conversation. Analecta Husserliana CX (2011). 467-83.
  • Ashbery and the Poetics of the Sublime: On the Margins of Modernity. Proceedings of the Tenth International Symposium on Comparative Literature. ed. Salwa Kamel. Cairo UP, 2011. 565-573.
  • Malraux’s Hope: Allegory and the Voices of Silence. Asian Literary Voices: from Marginal to Mainstream 12 (2010): 115-28.
  • Kristeva’s Subject-in-Process: From Structure to Semiotic Criticism, Proceedings of the Ninth Congress of the IASS/AIS, Helsinki-Imatra, 11-17 June 2007, Vol. 2, ed. Paul Forsell, Eero Tarasti and Richard Littlefield. International Semiotics Institute: Tartu, 2009. 1074-81.  
  • Rilke’s Semiotic Potential: Iconicity and Performance. The American Journal of Semiotics 18 (2006): 159-72.
  • Ambiguous Difference: Ethical Concern in Byron’s Manfred. New Literary History 36/3 (2005): 461-75.
  • Kafka’s Nietzschean Risk: Writing Against Memory, Journal of the Kafka Society of America 26 (2004): 24-33.
  • Donne’s Response to Pastoral: A Hermeneutics of Reading. New Readings of Old Masters: Recent Trends in Literature and Language.  Cairo: Macmillan, 2004.  595-605.
  • T. S. Eliot’s Poetics of Self: Reopening Four Quartets. Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 22 (2002): 148-68.
  • Coleridge and the Appearing Earth: An Essay on the Other in Language. Analecta Husserliana LXXI (2001): 55-67.
  • Joyce and Meta-phoric Excess: Ulysses as a Work of Plenitude. Selected Proceedings of the InternationalComparative Literature Conference, Leiden 1997, Vol. 6, Theo d’Haen, Raymond Vervliet, Annemarie Estor. Amsterdam and New York: Rodopi Press, 2000. 317-27. 
  • Aesthetic Worlds: Rimbaud, Williams and Baroque Form. Analecta Husserliana, LXIX (2000): 149-58.
  • W. C. Williams and The Descent of Winter: Object from Image in Modernist Poetics. The Journal of Imagism, Fall (1999): 27-36.
  • Stevens and the Frame of Reversal: Prospects for an Ethical Postmodernism. Connecticut Review XXI/1 (1999): 141-151.
  • Art as a Form of Negative Dialectics: ‘Theory’ in Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory. Journal of Speculative Philosophy11/1 (1997): 40-52.
  • Vattimo and Literary Understanding: An Essay on Recent Hermeneutics. International Studies in Philosophy, XXVII/1 (1995): 51-62.
  • Paul Klee from Image to Text: A Phenomenological Study. Constructions, 7 (1992): 23-35.