Lara Harb

Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies
On leave 2023-24 academic year (Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, the Philipps-University Marburg and Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin, Germany)
Office Phone
114B Jones Hall

On leave 2023-24 academic year (Alexander von Humboldt Fellow, the Philipps-University Marburg and Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin, Germany)


  • Classical Arabic Literature
  • Classical Arabic Literary Theory
  • Comparative Poetics

Lara Harb’s research focuses on classical Arabic literature and literary theory. Her interests include comparative poetics and different conceptions of the “literary”, the reception of Aristotle’s Poetics in Arabic, and the mutual influence of Arabic and Persian literatures.  Her first book, Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature (2020), makes the novel argument that wonder became the defining aesthetic experience of poetic language in classical Arabic literary theory. By looking at works of poetic criticism, philosophy, and theoretical treatments of the miraculousness of the Quran, Harb argues that the theorization of the aesthetic of wonder develops in the 11th century and represents a major paradigm shift from earlier criticism that was based on notions of truthfulness and naturalness. Arabic Poetics was a finalist for the Sheikh Zayed Award for "Arab Culture in Other Languages" and the American Academy of Religion (AAR) "Award for Excellence in the Study of Religion, Textual Studies.

Harb's current book project, tentatively titled Mimesis in Classical Arabic Literature,  investigates literary representation and its relationship with reality in classical Arabic literature. Harb was awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) grant and an Alexander von Humboldt Fellowship for the project.  

Harb has taught undergraduate courses on Wonder and Discovery in Classical Arabic Literature, the Nature of Reality in Medieval Arabic Literature, The Arabian Nights, and Near Eastern Humanities II: Medieval to Modern Thought and Culture. Her graduate courses have included Classical Arabic poetry, the MaqāmātJurjanian Poetics, and Mamluk and Ottoman Arabic Literature.

Harb joined the faculty of the Department of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton in 2015, prior to which she was an assistant professor at Dartmouth College. She earned a PhD in Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies from New York University and a BA in Comparative Literature from Brown University.  Her PhD dissertation won the S. A. Bonebakker Prize for the best PhD thesis in Classical Arabic Literature in 2014. 





Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature

Cambridge University Press, 2020

Listen to an interview with Prof. Harb about her book: Arabic Poetics