Salma Khadra Jayyusi (سلمى الخضراء الجيوسي) was born in Jordan to a Palestinian father and a Lebanese mother. She grew up in Palestine surrounded by books on Arab/Islamic and Western culture, listened endlessly to stories of Arab/Islamic history and to the legends of courage, love and charity from both Arabic and Western cultures; and witnessed her father's persistent struggle to gain justice for the Palestinians.
She completed her secondary education at Schmidt's Girls College in Jerusalem, and then graduated with honors in Arabic and English Literatures from the American University of Beirut. Soon after her graduation she married a Jordanian diplomat and lived, as a diplomat’s wife, in several countries. She only began her career as a writer and professor after raising her 3 children.
She began her critical career writing in Arabic, then, when she came to London for her Ph.D. which she obtained in 1970 from the School of Oriental and African Studies, London University, specializing in Arabic literature, she began and has continued to write also in English. Her poetry and critical writings and her writings on literary and cultural history (in both Arabic and English) have appeared in books and in many journals.
Soon after obtaining her Ph.D. in 1970 she started her career as a University Professor teaching first at the University of Khartoum (1970-1973), then at the Universities of Algiers and Constantine (1973-1975).
In 1973, she was invited by MESA (The Middle East Studies Association of North America) to go on a lecture tour in Canada and the US, on a Ford
Foundation Fellowship. Then, in 1975, the University of Utah invited her to return as a Visiting Professor of Arabic literature. She remained in the US since, teaching at several universities (Utah, Washington, Texas) and doing research as Visiting scholar at the University of Michigan for 2 years, before leaving teaching to concentrate on the work of disseminating Arab/Islamic literature, history and culture in the English language.
It was in 1980, as Visiting Professor at the University of Texas, which she came to the final realization that the paucity of Arabic literary and cultural material in world languages, which largely lies behind the misrepresentation of Arab/Islamic culture in the West, must be faced with determination. She took the decision to leave teaching and dedicate her time to the dissemination of Arab/Islamic culture. With the cooperation of other colleagues in both America and Britain, she founded PROTA (Project of Translation from Arabic), which she still directs.
The project has created 8 comprehensive anthologies, & many single author books in translation. These works aim at introducing some of the best creative examples of Arabic literature, classical and modern, to the English-speaking world. She commissions the translations to efficient bilingual translators` as a first stage, then does the finishing process with the cooperation of established writers and poets in America and Britain. All PROTA anthologies and many of its single author books have introductions, mostly written by Jayyusi herself, elucidating their artistic and semantic value.
Jayyusi has gone on many lecture tours in the Arab world, America and Europe. She has attended many conferences, and has lectured at cultural and academic institutions in the Arab world, in the Far East and in the West.
At the end of the eighties, Jayyusi realized that, aside from translations and the offering of critical introductions to the translated works, it was equally important, to introduce cogent cultural studies as well into the program. She then founded East-West Nexus, & her first work in this field was The Legacy of Muslim Spain, an 1,100 page edited book written by 42 world scholars. Published by Brill of Leiden in the Netherlands, it has gone into several printings in hardback & paperback and was declared by Brill as an absolute best seller.
She spent the academic year 1994-1995 as a Fellow at the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin (Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin) where, stimulated by its refreshing emphasis on interculturalism, she has become deeply interested in Euro-Arab as well as in general East/West cultural relations, the study of which she finds of vital importance in the new cultural atmosphere prevalent in the world today.
In May, 1995, she, in cooperation with the American Institute for Maghrebi Studies, held a conference in Tangiers on “Language, Literature and Culture in North Africa,” attended by major writers and scholars from Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco, other Arab countries and the United States.
While also in Berlin, she, in cooperation with German, Arab and other European scholars of classical Arabic history, culture and literature, began work on The Culture, Language and Literature in Pre-Islamic Arabia for which she held 2 workshops at the Institute of Advanced Study in Berlin. She feels that a study of the roots of the large corpus of Arabic literature, one of the richest in the world, will lead not only to a greater understanding of Arabic culture on the whole, but also to a deeper understanding of how literature, both prose and poetry, develop as a universal creative activity.
In 1997 she received a grant from the Ford Foundation to edit a book on Human Rights in Arabic Texts. This resulted in a 1,500 page book in Arabic detailing the history of the notion of human rights even as early as pre-Islamic times, showing the various patterns of applications and infringements of human rights in Arab experience, concentrating mainly on modern times.
In 1999 she received a Fulbright Fellowship to do research on the Life of the Palestinians in the XXth century as depicted in their personal account writings, & spent the year 1999-2000 doing research in Syria, Jordan & the West Bank, 3 places with a large concentration of Palestinians.
It was also in 1999, while doing research in the West Bank that she invited a team of architects from Italy and America, led by 2 Islamic City specialists, to do field study on the morphological aspects of old Jerusalem.
In October, 2001, she held an international conference in Amman, Jordan, on the history of ancient Jerusalem, which resulted in a book in both Arabic and English titled, Jerusalem in History and Tradition.
(From The Khalil Sakakini Cultural Centre Foundation website)
East-West NEXUS/PROTA Publications:
Anthology of modern Arabic Poetry, Columbia University Press, New York, 1987.
The Literature of Modern Arabia, an Anthology, Kegan Paul Inter-national, London, 1988.
Modern Palestinian Literature, an Anthology, Columbia University Press, New York, 1992.
Modern Arabic Drama, an Anthology, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1993.
Arabic Short Plays, Interlink Books, New York, 2003.
Modern Arabic Fiction, an Anthology, in press, at Columbia University Press, New York, 2005.
Books on Arab/Islamic Civilization:
The Legacy of Muslim Spain, Brill, Leiden, 1992.
Jerusalem in Ancient History and Tradition, ed. by Thomas Thompson with the collaboration of Salma Khadra Jayyusi, London- New York, 2003.
My Jerusalem, Essays, Poems, Reminecsences, in press, Interlink Books, 2004.
Human Rights in Arab Thought, in press at I.B. Tauris, London & New York, 2004.
The collection also includes about 13 single author translations form various Arab countries, mostly published in English by interlink Books, Vantage, & the University of Texas in the US, & Zed Books, Saqi Books, & Three Continents Press in the UK.
Books on Folklore:
The Adventures os Sayf Ibn Yazan, a folk romance, done part translation, part retelling by Lena Jayyusi, Indiana University Press, 1995.
Abu Jameel's Daughter & Other Stories, by Jamal Saleem Nuweihed, Interlink Books, 2002.
Other Publications in English:
Trends and Movements in Modern Arabic Poetry, a 2 volume critical history published in 1977 by E.J. Brill. Its Arabic translation has appeared in Beirut in 1999,
“Two Types of Hero in Contemporary Arabic Literature”, in Mundus Atrium, Pittsburg, Vol. X. Number 1, 1977.
“Contemporary Arabic Poetry, Visions and Attitudes”, in Studies in Modern Arabic Literature, ed. Robin Ostle, 1978.
“Umayyad Verse” chapter in the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, Vol.. I, 1982.
"Andalusi Poetry, the Golden Age" chapter in The Legacy of Muslim Spain, Brill, Leiden, 1992.
Andalusi Poetry, "Nature and the Rise of Ibn Khafaja" chapter in The Legacy of Muslim Spain, Brill, Leiden, 1992.
“Modernist Poetry in Arabic” chapter in the Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, Vol. IV, 1993.
“Najib Mahfouz and Nobel.,” in Studies on Najib Mahfouz, ed. A. Haydar and M. Bearde, 1993.
“Freedom and Compulsion: Poets of the Seventies”, symposium in Oxford, 1993, published in Journal of Arabic Literature, XXVI, ed. Robin Ostle and Derek Hopwood, 1994.
“Return to Tradition as Positive Action”, Keynote Lecture at the conference on Tradition and Modernity, Exeter, September, 1994, published in 1995.
“The Resistance of the Qasida Form in Arabic.” Keynote Lecture at “The Qasida Conference.” 1993, at SOAS, ed. Stefan Sperl and Christopher Shackle, Brill, 1996.
“Culture: A Global View”, essay published in the 1995 Jahrbuch of the WISSENSCHAFTS Colleg zu Berlin.