Growing up in Tunisia, Miled Faiza was immersed from his earliest years in a multilingual environment. He spoke Arabic at home and learned French and English at school. A writer and poet from an early age, there was no question that he would study Arabic language and literature when he enrolled in the Universite de Sousse on the Tunisian coast. After immigrating to the United States, he continued his study of language in the Department of Near Eastern Languages at Wayne State University in Detroit. It was while working on his master’s degree at Wayne State that he began teaching Arabic to American students.
Thus began a professional track through academia that encompassed much more than the straight study of Arabic language and literature. His first book of poetry, Remains of a House We Once Entered, was published in 2004, and he is currently working on his second. His poetry, and the poetry he translates, tends to focus on the human experience of diaspora — leaving one’s home to make a new home and identity for oneself — as well as on themes of love, eroticism, and the mundane details of daily life.
His experience teaching Arabic to American students also led him to an interest in his native Tunisian dialect and in Arabic linguistics, areas that are not common subjects of study in the Arab world. One of his dreams is to produce an anthology of Tunisian folk stories and a textbook of Tunisian Arabic, a variety of Arabic that is sorely lacking in pedagogic resources. Lexicography — specifically the making of English-Arabic bilingual dictionaries — is another area of research and interest, and Faiza is currently involved in a project creating the first Tunisian corpus and Tunisian-English dictionary. He is also involved in the new Oxford Arabic-English dictionary, which will be the first modern, corpus-based dictionary of Arabic in English, to be published in 2013.
Faiza has taught Arabic in the United States since 2006. He comes to Brown from the University of Virginia, where he has been a lecturer in Arabic since 2009.
Asked how he feels about starting this new chapter at Brown, Faiza ticks off a list of reasons why he was drawn to the University: the legacy, the history, the atmosphere of learning, the diversity of programs. He says it’s exciting to be in a place where literature is celebrated and language is held in high regard. “It’s a natural place for me to blossom and celebrate life.”
Faiza hopes to pass his infectious love of language to the students he will be teaching in both intermediate and advanced Arabic language classes this year. He says he’d eventually like to add an Arabic literature class to his roster as well.
Faiza also confesses a love of the New England area, particularly the history and the culture. “I want to call Rhode Island home forever,” he says.