Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Middle Eastern Studies


Samira Haj

Subject Categories

Comparative Literature | Intellectual History | Islamic World and Near East History | Near and Middle Eastern Studies


Childhood Studies, Childhood Autobiographies, Comparative Literature, Modern Middle East History, Modern Egypt, History of Modern Egyptian Childhood


Counter to French social historian Philippe Aries’ argument, the concept of an Egyptian childhood has its own traceable history, separate from the modern Western European concept of childhood. As shown, with the presence of language on childhood, in a number of pre-modern Arabic/Islamic literature, notions of childhood had a rich history outside of modern Western Europe. But, depictions of an Egyptian childhood in modern Egyptian literature, specifically two childhood autobiographies/memoirs, Taha Hussein’s An Egyptian Childhood and Sayyid Qutb’s A Child from the Village, do not emerge seamlessly from these early pre-modern depictions of childhood. Both Hussein and Qutb wrote their childhood autobiographies/memoirs, at a time in Egypt, known as the ‘liberal experiment’ from 1922-1952. During this period, a variety of literature around Egyptian childhood had emerged, as well as, literature on the Egyptian child’s development. This paper traces how normalized discourse on Egyptian childhood had emerged during the period of the ‘liberal experiment’, and shows the impact of modernity and nation-building on reforming this normalized language on the child. Then, through a comparison of Hussein’s childhood autobiography and Qutb’s childhood memoir, this paper will show how both authors translated this normalized discourse on Egyptian childhood, within their own generational and socio-cultural experiences, and their placement within the ‘liberal experiment’, leading them to interpret two differing conceptions of what an Egyptian childhood looks like.