Department of English and Comparative Literature


Brief Biography

William D. Melaney is a professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature at The American University in Cairo. He holds an MA in English from the University of Chicago with an emphasis on Renaissance literature and literary theory. He received a doctorate in comparative literature from Stony Brook University after defending his dissertation on modernism in literature and philosophy. Melaney served as department chair from fall 2004 to Spring 2006 and again in spring 2012. His current teaching responsibilities include upper-level courses in romanticism, nineteenth-century European literature, and modern literary criticism. He has presented “Quests for the Absolute,” “The Origins of Drama,” “Specters of the Other,” “Heidegger and Poetry” and “Foucault and Cultural History” in recent versions of the literature/philosophy interface. Since beginning as a full-time faculty at AUC, he has directed over thirty MA theses in the literature department and remains active in the graduate program.  

Melaney has published more than 40 articles in the fields of modern literature, philosophy and literary theory. His work has appeared in New Literary History, Connecticut Review, Yeats Eliot 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: Rowman and Littlefield International, 2017). The third book examines how alterity first emerges in Romantic texts through the doublet self/other and is then intensified in modern literature, just as it foregrounds the possibility of world literature in our own time. Among the authors discussed in this book are Goethe, Byron, Shelley, Flaubert, Joyce and Butor.

How does the reading of modern literature, as it unfolds in the space between aesthetics and semiotics, pose questions that have ethical and political consequences? In Melaney’s current research project, Kristeva’s reading of Hegel and Freud provides a new beginning for criticism that situates literature in a semiotic context. In this study, literary texts from Renaissance to contemporary will be examined as a validation of what Kristeva presents theoretically. The conclusion of the study will indicate the strengths and limitations of psychoanalysis and argue that Hegel’s work remains useful to the interpretation of literature.   

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

Selected Publications

  • “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.
  • “Revolutionary Kristeva: Conflict, Mimesis, Rimbaud.” Proceedings of the Eleventh International Symposium on Comparative Literature. ed. Salwa Kamel. Cairo UP, 2014. 843-53.
  • “Heidegger’s Allegory of Reading: On Nietzsche and the Tradition.” Heidegger and Nietzsche, ed. Babich, Denker, and Zaborowski. New York and Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, 2012. 190-98.
  • “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.
  • “Blanchot’s Inaugural Poetics: Visibility and the Infinite Conversation.” Analecta Husserliana CX (2011). 467-83.
  • “Ricoeur’s Transcendental Concern: A Hermeneutics of Discourse.” Analecta Husserliana CVIII (2011): 495-513.
  • “Malraux’s Hope: Allegory and the Voices of Silence.” Asian Literary Voices: from Marginal to Mainstream 12, ed. Philip F. Williams. Amsterdam: University of Amsterdam Press, 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.
Research Interest
  • Comparative Literature
  • Romanticism and its aftermath
  • Possibilities of World Literature
  • Aesthetics from Kant to Rancière
  • New approaches to Hegel