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 and a PhD in comparative literature from Stony Brook University in New York. Melaney served as department chair from fall 2004 to Spring 2006 and again in spring 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 director of graduate studies for ECLT.

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.

A fourth book, Figural Space: Semiotics and the Aesthetic Imaginary (London and New York: Rowman
and Littlefield, forthcoming in 2021), explores a new approach to literature that begins with Julia
Kristeva’s semiotic approach to texts as the starting point for rereading of Freud and Hegel. This study examines selected works from the renaissance to contemporary in terms of both semiotics and philosophical aesthetics. The conclusion discusses the strengths and limitations of psychoanalysis and argues that a new reading of Hegel would be 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 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
  • Aesthetics from Kant to Rancière
  • Possibilities of World Literature
  • Hegel and Kristevan semiotics
  • History as/in Hermeneutics