Born in Cairo, Ihab Hassan followed the way that many bright young Egyptians took in the first half of the twentieth century; he trained to become an engineer. After graduating with highest honors from the University of Cairo, Hassan left for the United States to further his study of electrical engineering, and in 1948 he earned his MS in that field at the University of Pennsylvania. Yet he continued on at Penn, changing his field to something that spoke to him, evidently, more deeply than did engineering. He studied literature, and earned two degrees in English and MA in 1950 and PhD in 1953.
After a short period teaching at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, he moved to Wesleyan University, where he taught from 1954 to 1970. Since 1970, he has been the Vilas Research Professor of English and Comparative Literature at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. During his professional career, he has also held visiting professorship in Sweden, Japan, Germany, France and Austria, as well as at Yale, Trinity College and the University of Washington.
Over the last forty-old year, Hassan has won numerous awards and fellowship, including Guggenheim Foundation fellowship, Senior Fulbright Lectureship, National Endowment for the Humanities Grants, research appointment in France, England, Italy, Japan and Australia and teaching awards. He was awarded honorary degrees by the University of Uppsala (1995) and the University of Giessen (1999). In 2003, he was a chairman of Executive Committee of the International Association of University Professors of English.
Ihab Hassanís bibliography is long, including some 15 books and some 200 articles since 2003. Among his critical works are Radical Innocence:
- Studies in Contemporary American Novel (1961),
- The Literature of Silence, Henry Miller and Samuel Becket (1967),
- The Dismemberment of Orpheus, Toward a Postmodern Literature (1971),
- Para criticism, Seven Speculations of the Times (1975),
- The Right Promethean Fire, Imagination, Science & Cultural Change (1980),
- The Postmodern Turn, Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture (1987)
In more recent years some of his works have moved toward autobiography and some toward travel writing:
- Out of Egypt, Fragments of an Autobiography (1986)
- Selves at Risk, Patterns of Quest in Contemporary American Letters (1990)
- Between the Eagle & Sun, Traces of Japan (1995)
- His Rumors of Change: Essays of Five Decades collects portions of earlier works
He continues actively publishing in academic journal, and some of these articles will be alluded to in the interview that follows. The last lustrum has witnessed his publication of:
- Criticism in Our Clime, Parables of American Academe
- Negative Capability Reclaimed, Literature and Philosophy contra Politics
- The Expense of Spirit in Postmodern Times, between Nihilism & Belief
Contributions to PLMA:
- Forum on Intellectuals
- Millennial Issue
- From Postmodernism to Post modernity
- Queries for Postcolonial Studies
- Globalism and its Discontents, in Profession 1999 magazine
- How Australian is It? In Best Essays 2000
Hassanís writings have been translated into sixteen different languages.