He was born in Cairo, Egypt, and emigrated to the United States in 1946. Currently he is Emeritus Vilas Research Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. His writings include Radical Innocence: The Contemporary American Novel (1961), The Dismemberment of Orpheus: Toward a Postmodern Literature (1971), The Postmodern Turn: Essays in Postmodern Theory and Culture (1987), and Selves at Risk: Patterns of Quest in Contemporary American Letters (1990), as well as two memoirs, Out of Egypt: Scenes and Arguments of an Autobiography (1985) and Between the Eagle and the Sun: Traces of Japan (1996). Recently, he has published short fiction in various literary magazines.
Hassan received honorary degrees from the University of Uppsala (Sweden) and the University of Giessen (Germany), two Guggenheim Fellowships, and three Senior Fulbright Lectureships.
The following table is taken from a part of The Dismemberment of Orpheus that was reprinted in Postmodern American Fiction: A Norton Anthology (1998). It has helped many students understand the differences, both concrete and abstract, between modernism and postmodernism.
Hassan's table of differences between modernism and postmodernism[edit | edit source]
|Form (conjunctive, closed)||Antiform (disjunctive, open)|
|Art Object / Finished Work||Process/Performance/Happening|
|Interpretation/Reading||Against Interpretation / Misreading|
|Lisible (Readerly)||Scriptable (Writerly)|
|Narrative / Grande Histoire||Anti-narrative / Petit Histoire|
|Origin / Cause||Difference-Difference / Trace|
|God the Father||The Holy Ghost|