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 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, 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, 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).

      • “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.
      • “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.
    Research Interest
    • Comparative Literature
    • Aesthetics from Kant to Rancière
    • Possibilities of World Literature
    • Hegel and Kristevan semiotics
    • History as/in Hermeneutics