Registers of Arabic Literary History

Nadia Al-Bagdadi

New Literary History, Volume 39, Number 3, Summer 2008, pp. 437-461 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/nlh.0.0046

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Registers of Arabic Literary History
Nadia Al-Bagdadi I. Introduction: Borderlines of Literature
aithful to the idea that “Literature in its broadest sense comprises all that mankind imprinted in verbal form to be transmitted to memory,” Carl Brockelmann’s monumental History of Arabic Literature sought to collect and catalog all of Arabic writing he considered to be of literary relevance.1 The German Orientalist, though, was conscious of the fact that a philosophical history of Arabic Schrifttum, the ultimate aim of his endeavor, was still out of reach and that his aspiration for a “Literaturwissenschaft im höheren Sinne” had to await further study at the beginning of the twentieth century (1:2). Exhaustive knowledge of the literary material and refined methodology were still in their infancy in comparison to the advance in the study of Islamic religion and tradition initiated by the Hungarian scholar Ignaz Goldziher. Brockelmann, who was aware of the difference between what constitutes “literature” for the Arabs and the modern meaning of “literature,” operated with two different concepts of literature. One stems from Arabic tradition and usage, one from a modern, universal one: “Thus the historian of Arabic literature needs to consider all these emergences and may only in the Modern period, which gradually aligns the world of Islam as well to European culture, restrict himself to art of literature (Wortkunst) proper” (1:1f).2 But as demodé as Brockelmann’s definition of literature and his attempt to provide an all-embracing literary history may appear, they curiously come closer to our present understanding of literature. At the turn of the long nineteenth century, an epoch marked by the height of European colonialism in the Arab world and the triggering of an imperial global age with far-reaching consequences for Arab and other local cultures and traditions, the challenges Brockelmann faced one hundred years ago are not unfamiliar to those obstacles historians and critics of Arabic literature encounter today. In principle, these problems relate to defining the nature of the material called “literature,” the definition of parameters of periodization, and the specification of geographic and linguistic boundaries over time. The imperative for literary studies in the
New Literary History, 2008, 39: 437–461


occasioned by a hitherto unprecedented compression of time and space. reinforced in turn the necessity to rethink the very foundations of modes of thought and academic disciplines.5 Arab culture and civilization underwent various forms of globalization before the present global age. has become a concept fashionable not only in sociological. to quote Brockelmann again. understood as a progressive move from the local to the world level. already occupied the minds of Arab scholars. or political studies. of society and culture. less with the nature of Arabic literature but with its embeddedness in the larger frame of “Islamdom” and “Islamicate civilization. In comparison. access of new social groups to the realm of literacy and culture.and postmillennial special issues and symposia in the wider realm of (comparative) literary and cultural studies reveals. and critics of the early Islamic period. and boundaries have been tumbling in the former disciplines. and other changes within literary traditions cannot be explained with reference to literary developments alone. economic. there clearly exists a lesser degree of concern about the global age.”3 It is a truism that shifts of cultural centers. While this situation imposes on English.438 new literary history Anglo-Saxon world today is to rethink under conditions of the global age (a) the parameters of literature in terms of its genres. and comparative literature studies a fundamental self-inquiry. Questions of what constitutes the nature of literature as distinct from other forms of utterance. and (c) the new dimensions of intertextuality between hitherto independent literary traditions. These inquiries have not left entirely untouched studies on culture and literature in the Arab world. The pervasive global transformations. but require external factors of explanation. and cultural conditions and contingencies favored the reemergence of concepts such as civilization as more appropriate units to study large-scale historical masses in a comparative manner. The concerns historians of Arabic .4 The concept of globalization as it is most widely used.” to use Marshall Hodgson’s terms. text. With the spread of Islamic civilization. in my view. to what a sketchy survey of pre. This has to do. however. and truth. reached “from the shores of the Pontus to Zanzibar. Inquiries into social. repositioning of the field. there emerged the issue of geographic and cultural unity and diversity. Islamic civilization. economic. Arabic literary studies were concerned with these problems much earlier. poets. and redefining of the methodological apparatus and parameters. von Fez and Timbuktu to Kasgar and the Sunda Islands. categories. for better or worse. French. (b) the spatial expansion of boundaries hitherto clearly defined as national boundaries. and of what defines its forms and functions. and their changes through history. If long held certainties. Arabic literary studies have not been affected in the same measure by quests for self-reflection. but of late in the humanities and literary studies.

but referred to a variety of forms and functions of literary expressions. Arabic literature was not so much confined to specific genres of text.registers of arabic literary history 439 literature still have with framing the past involve them in how to rethink literary studies in today’s global age. the overlapping imperial settings necessitated Arabic literature. covering entertaining and spiritual as well as ethical and practical content. I shall trace how Arabic literary history emerges out of and breaks off from earlier traditions and shall direct attention to some aspects of Arabic literary history that seem to me instructive for the present project of rethinking the very parameters of literary history in the global age. philologists. For a person “to have literature” is a clear indication of a certain level of education . emerged a distinctive Arab cultural tradition from about the fourth century CE. and subsequently Arab literary history. I shall look at Arabic literary studies before and after it sought to fashion itself upon Western European models of writing and of interpretation. others would go for “humanitas. of translation and assimilation. and the culama.” or “paideia”. II. With the advent of Islam in the sixth century. as the most prominent and developed of Arab forms of culture. Adab includes both poetry and prose (shicr and nathr). It is rendered most closely as “educational literature. the basic distinction of genres in Arabic literature. the poets.”7 The literary areas involved belong to the domains of the secretaries (kutt¯ ab). poses some problems for translation. each with a fixed and stable nature. Tzvetan Todorov’s reminder to “create a first element of doubt as to the ‘natural’ character of literature” and to any idea of finite type or types of literature describes well the present case. to cope with processes of expansion and integration. In what follows. while poetry has been—and for some it still is—the preferred form of literary expression. The characteristics of adab are associated with an urbane and mundane lifestyle. and finally of unity and diversity.” “etiquette. as a multilayered term with unsolved etymological origin. religious and cultural traditions. in its premodern meaning it was not coterminous with the meaning of “literature” alone but displayed a richness of meanings. with overlapping imperial histories. subsumed under the name adab. Arabic literature as it developed over the ages provides in itself a rich reservoir of “text and context” reflecting and inflecting this dynamism.6 Before the advent of modernity. geographical locations. While in its modern use adab signifies exclusively literature as belleslettres. What Is Literature? Crucial for any investigation into literary history is the question: what is literature? From the crossing point of empires and civilizations.” “Bildung. This term adab.

including history and literature. having its own object (mawd¯ uc) and problematic and thus being distinguished from a science (‘ilm). A universal feature of literary history and the literary canon seems to consist in their dual attempt to maintain literature conservatively.”9 Part of this attempt is to define what constitutes a literary trace. leading professional interpreters to revise the ways in which they think of literature. clearly identifiable subject in some kind of stable form. which prevents it from being captured as one single. with the end of Arab Muslim empires. or technê   without. Canons as Histories If one of the features of adab and of Arabic culture is its diversity. Institutions of Arabic canon maintenance.440 new literary history and literacy. Obviously. while assuring its mobility by being based upon the changing consensus of the interpreting community of scholars and readers. and with the advent of modernity. be they religious or literaryprofane. literary history in the modern sense did not exist in this concept. including oral literacy.8 III. Canon-making assured first . History provides ample evidence that periods of crisis are fruitful occasions for reflection on the nature of literature. History (t¯ ar ¯ Kkh) in general was embedded in and classified as one of the genres of adab. establishing a social barrier between the cultured elite and the uncultivated masses. This social differentiation based on levels of literacy became a major theme of Arabic literature. adab marks the status of a person. literary history resembles processes of canonization in that they are both driven by an “anxiety of influence that forms and malforms each new writing that aspires to permanence. including written as well as oral traces. with the increasing impact of Persian culture on Arabic. But there did exist what is best called an ars poetica with a highly sophisticated field of literary criticism in the form of rhetoric (bal¯ agha) and applied literary criticism (naqd al-shicr). In society. attempts at confining. directing. Adab. and ‘ilm are the two major categories of enunciation. as a repository and memory of literary traces. The fact that until the present day no comprehensive history has been written on the concept of adab is an indication of its enormous flexibility and complexity. however. are driven by fear of corruption. Moreover. In this sense the study of adab functions as an art (fann or sinac). and unifying by Arab philologists are quick to follow. the latter becoming fixed and normative with the transformation into written text. For Arabic literature such moments occurred with the rise of Islam during the ninth and tenth centuries. These attempts take the form of canons and literary histories of sorts.

thus enhancing an Arabic science of literature proper. part of the challenge of the current global age derives from the nature of this modern couple. and introduced a “modern” style. literature and history belonged epistemologically to the same domain. . literary history has to emerge from criteria inherent to the specificities of a particular literature.13 Not only can they capture the intellectual spirit and cultural tastes of their time. These procedures supported the ideas of the superiority of racial Arabertum and of Arabic as the linguistic medium of Islamic revelation and poetical genius. an affinity characteristic of Arabic religious and profane scholarship. While according to the premodern use. canon and literary history resemble each other in their imaginative potential. who as a group display “a type of rationality inseparable from the text. they reveal an inherent logic of text and interpretation. namely adab. It is this potential. These d¯ Kw¯ ans. in Arabic. but expanded to genealogy (cilm al-ans¯ ab) and philology (cilm al-lugha). The similar function of the canon. Reviewing and taking stock of the literary tradition in their own tongue served to delineate a purely Arabic tradition and its superiority over other languages.registers of arabic literary history 441 a safe path to revelation and then provided a reliable path back to the beginnings of Arab genius. that allows us to study canon and literary history as historical products in their own right. the d¯ Kw¯ an collections. and writers (udab¯ a’  ) at the Abbasid court. a present that anxiously seeks to maintain the canon. when Arab poets and critics broke demonstratively with the “old style” of Arabic rhetoric and poetry. the relation between sacred and secular interpretation and between sacred and profane institutional control of interpretation.11 Compilations and philological interpretations of Arabic poetry and sayings. scholars. provided the textual basis from which philological and aesthetical studies were developed. The competitive polemics between the Arabs and the Persians (cajams) did not remain restricted to literature.12 Apart then from their conservative character. as Frank Kermode points out. A climax of literary canon-making was reached in the ninth century in the Arab East. flourished as well. Literary histories are vivid testimonies of textual communities of the learned. collections of pre-Islamic poetry. who introduced. mainly of the pre-Islamic period. notably Greek and Persian. both follow the same pattern of increasingly complex interpretation. not only were religious materials canonized. which derives from the endeavor to reconstruct the past for the needs of the present. new ideas and themes to Arabic culture. Arab philologists felt at once threatened and inspired by the presence of Persian secretaries. and yet to integrate in the larger historical movements of time.”14 In this sense. It resulted as well in the archives of Arabic literature.10 During the first centuries of Islam. but so too were the seven canonical readings of the Qur’an and the six canonical hadith collections.

442 new literary history “literary history. there exists not a single literary history. the Ottoman and the Persian Indian. with their own fundamental transformations in form and content. and of the changing nature of literature. Arabic. to the best of my knowledge. Under the new regime. the question is whether premodern examples can serve as models? IV. if in different ways. Dayf’s literary history avoided the development of a new periodization specific to literature. two distinct areas and disciplines. this modern understanding of literature and history reigns in European. who in distinction from earlier poets called themselves “modernist” (the muhdath¯ un) and applied literary categories such as style and themes. They were. as poetry and prose (shicran wa-nathran). In his discussion of the sciences.15 But although Dayf suggests that literary history (t¯ ar ¯ Kkh al-adab) ought to be less concerned with chronological order than with issues of genres and thus genealogies. Adab. changes in tandem with the changes of society. that developed literary epochs and caesuras from categories specific to literature. sacred and profane. function and legitimacy. with modernity.” which united what has become. and of science and knowledge. and other oriental literatures alike. Registers of Arabic Literary History— Arab Contributions Until the present day. the universal historian Ibn Khald¯ un adopts a purely scientific perspective on what he calls “cilm al-adab” (science of . he adopted a conventional chronological order. the relationship between literature and history did concern Arab scholars. of social formation and organization. More rigorous and systematic is an attempt to rethink the foundations of the body politic. unable to apply literary classifications for earlier schools and periods and maintained the chronological convention. however. He defines adab as a reflex of society. the modern Egyptian critic Shawqi Dayf acknowledges the futility of defining the exact nature of literature. This includes those poets of the Abbasid period. As such. In his comprehensive History of Arabic Literature (T¯ ar ¯ Kkh al-adab al-‘arab¯ K in six volumes). and their respective methodologies and paradigms. which was developed under the impact of the end of the Arab Muslim empires and at the beginning of the emergence of new empires. Nevertheless. If the task today is to rethink the implications of disciplinary frameworks. he has to trace its different usages from the pre-Islamic era and from the ethics Bedouin society attributed to it. to usages in the mundane world of urban civilization in the capitals of the Muslim empires and dynasties where adab acquired a normative function as educational instrument and tool of refinement.

four books alone. after lexicography (al-lugha). For philosophers like Ibn S¯ Kn¯ a (Avicenna) or Ibn Rushd (Averroes). The ideas are secondary to the words. least by those for whom the faculty of the “imagination” (tahky¯ Kl or quwwa mutakhayyila) plays an essential aspect of poetic expression. What renders his understanding important are his views on affinities and limitations of literature and history as science toward the end of the two-volume universal history al-Muqaddima. literature’s specificity is to be found in the local.1078–81) or the Andalusian literary theorist H¯ azim al-Qartajann¯ K (1211–85). the Kit¯ ab al-Naw¯ adir (The Book of Rarities) by the grammarian Abi cAl¯ K al-Q¯ al¯ K al-Baghdad¯ K (d. alchemy.” he discusses “science of literature. such an opinion was far from being accepted by all. which deals with “the various kinds of sciences. .20 Only the fact that people produce poetic works and ideas is universal. 967). Of course. ca. constitute the pillars of cilm al-adab  : the professional. which presumes not a typological or ontological fixation of words but their potential to change.19 If Ibn Khald¯ un’s view is not conducive to a literary history. The words are basic. and. a study of lexicography. grammar. 898).” he states. Arab literary critics and poets will denounce it as sterile fixation on words. Record of Beginnings and Events from the Days of the Arabs. “This science. scholars like the grammarian cAbd al-Q¯ ahir al-Jurj¯ an¯ K (d.” or “Paideia”) by the philologist and theologian Ibn Qutayba (d. and therefore it does not partake of universality. specialized handbook Adab al-k¯ atib (literally “The Secretary’s Culture. modestly claimed to be not more than a local history of the Berbers of North Africa. dream. which considers words and thus lexicography as being stable and unchangeable. “has no object the accident of which may be studied and thus be affirmed or denied.” after having treated subjects such as medicine. 889). 868–9). At the end of chapter 6. the Prolegomenea to the Book of Example.” Ibn Khald¯ un asserts. and the evil eye. natural sciences.16 Based on these philological pillars. literary expression is even a means to produce poetic syllogism. grammar and syntax (al-nahw). Persians and Berbers and Their Powerful Contemporaries (known in Arabic as the Kit¯ ab’ al-‘ibar).17 This rather low position of literature among the linguistic sciences is reemphasized in his pragmatic view that “[b]oth poetry and prose work with words.”18 This view. Ibn Khald¯ un ranks literature (al-adab) as the fourth element of what constitutes Arabic language. optics. treats literature as a repository and as an assurance of historical continuity. all from the ninth and early tenth century CE. and rhetoric (al-bay¯ an).registers of arabic literary history 443 literature). and not with ideas. Ibn Khald¯ un goes so far as to reject the idea that literature makes general statements.” To him. “Scholars. and pre. the Kit¯ ab al-k¯ amil f¯ K al-adab (The Perfect Book of Culture). the Kit¯ ab al-bay¯ an wa-al-taby¯ Kn’ (The Book of Eloquence) by the polymath al-J¯ ahiz (d.and early Islamic poetry by the grammarian and literary scholar al-Mubarrad (d.

written works are numerous. with its ability to think. as we saw. he then discerns that “(6) The problems of a certain science may only exist scattered among the proper chapters of other sciences. From Ibn Khald¯ un’s account. But it is the homogeneity of science to which the study of literature also has to aspire.444 new literary history “take care to deposit all their scientific thought in books by means of writing. They are handed down among all races and in all ages. let us jump some six hundred years to another historian who also sought. so that all those who are absent and live at a later time may have the benefit of them. The Lebanese historian and novelist Jurj¯ K Zayd¯ an (1861–1914). With the advent of another global age. who held the first chair in Arabic Literary History. He will do that. and his last work. Ibn Khald¯ un details the purposes of valid discursive composition. They differ as the result of differences in religious laws and organizations and in the information available about nations and dynasties. It is this particularist aspect of literature that prevents it from transcending its realm. written at a moment of great transition. and a (new) discipline will make its appearance. 1901–6). this view culminates in the categorical divorce of literature from such modes of thought and knowledge that aspire to ultimate truth. For Ibn Khald¯ un. . . and object (mawd¯ uc) of literary history was posed again as a question about “the meaning of history today. This happened with the science of rhetoric (bayân)” (414). Some excellent scholar will then become aware of the subject of that particular discipline. the problem of principle. positioned literature as firmly embedded in rhetoric and history as part of the science of adab. scope. without success. the four-volume Arab . the age of imperialism and colonialism. then. among them The History Kkh al-tamaddun al-islam¯ K.23 provides separate histories of various aspects of Arabic Schrifttum. and the discussion of its problems” (413). a biographical of Islamic Civilization (T¯ ar ¯ dictionary of Arab personalities. its division into chapters and sections. He will give it its place among the sciences that mankind. Ibn Khald¯ un’s historio-philosophical approach. the first of which is “(1) the invention of a science with its subject.22 including other Arab intellectuals such as the Lebanese writers Butrus al-Bust¯ an¯ K and F¯ aris al-Shidy¯ aq or the Egyptian Farah Ant¯ un. . which is attributed to it in particular” (412). when the Arabic term “literary history” (t¯ ar ¯ Kkh al-adab) appeared for the first time.”21 echoing concerns among Arab historians of the nineteenth century. which. to embrace with equal breadth a history of Arab culture and civilization. in the words of Ibn Khald¯ un. The philosophical sciences do not show such differences” (411–12). Or. cultivates. “[e]ach nation has its own particular form of writing. With reference to literary theory. of which there are seven. Everywhere in the world. People who do that are authors. was abandoned during the nineteenth century.

27 (Thus it is not surprising that his historical novels introduced a new popular genre. political history. Then follows early Islamic Schrifttum. In these chapters. Zayd¯ an adopts the notion of the Age of Decline (‘asr al-inhit¯ at). It is Zayd¯ an who credits himself with having coined in 189425 the notion and new concept of literary history (t¯ ar ¯ Kkh al-¯ ad¯ ab al-luga al-arabiyya)26 and who aspired to write literary history as Geistes-und Kulturgeschichte of the Arab people. which culminates in the Umayyad and Abbasid periods. For the remaining centuries. thus transcending political history. Zayd¯ an adopts a diachronic perspective. biographies of learned men (tar¯ ajim rij¯ al al-cilm wa-l-adab). literary history is able to reach another understanding of history beyond events. since it is at once “the history of the mind (cuq¯ ul). and what marked her spirit (nuf¯ usihim) and manners (akhl¯ aqihim). the J¯ ahiliyya. For the premodern period. not unlike Burckhardt’s idea: “Since general historiography writes the history of war.registers of arabic literary history 445 Literary History (T¯ ar ¯ Kkh ‘¯ ad¯ ab al-lugha al-carabiyya. scientific developments. The idea of the umma reflects simultaneously the universal and the national. Zayd¯ an draws explicitly a parallel to modern European literary history. the second deals with poetry and science. and Indian literature and culture and their impact on Arabic literature and science. but under the signature of the rising Arab nation-states and ideas of nationalism. Only these interpret history (sh¯ arih li-l-t¯ ar ¯ Kkh). with the latter being divided into four sections.) History and literature are complementary to each other. of conquest. shedding of blood.”28 In other words. following religious and dynastic division. of overpowering and despotism. 1910–13). Persian. He begins with the pre-Islamic period. and finally accessibility of manuscripts and books.”29 What makes Zayd¯ an’s history of additional interest is the fact that it adopts two different registers for premodern and modern literature. it is not concerned with the history of literature (t¯ ar ¯ Kkh ‘¯ ad¯ ab al-lugha). summary and categorization of books.30 a period during which all . are congenial media. claiming that his history will mark an epochal turning point.24 In the latter. during which the Mongolian and later the Ottoman Empire came to power in the Arab world. though he divides it into two separate aspects: the first deals with the specimens and traces of the Arabs and of Arabic materials. But it can only reach a true understanding of the nation (fahm haq¯ Kqat al-umma) or the true essence of its culture or politics (kunh ta­ maddunih¯ a aw-siy¯ asatih¯ a) through a knowledge of the history of science and literature (t¯ ar ¯ Kkh al-‘ilm wa-l-adab). Zayd¯ an’s account adopts the conventional periodization. presenting the classical literary canon along six aspects: ranking of the Arabs (bay¯ an manz¯ Kla al-cArab). as they refer historical events to their real causes (yu‘allil al-asb¯ aba wa-l-haw¯ aditha bi-‘il¯ alih¯ a l-haq¯ Kqiyya). for which literature. and subsequently literary history. Zayd¯ an opens the perspective and offers overviews of Greek.

adaptation. As a concept. stretching from the fall of Constantinople to the first arrival of the French in Egypt. Ibn Nad¯ Km’s Kit¯ ab al-Fihrist and the Mift¯ ah al-sac¯ ada wa-misb¯ ah al-siy¯ ada by the Ottoman theologian and biographer cIs¯ am al-D¯ Kn Tashköprüz¯ ade (d. namely Brockelmann’s monumental Geschichte der Arabischen Litteratur and Reynold Nicholson’s The Literary History of the Arabs (1907). the accusation that Zayd¯ an did not devise a history of his own points to another issue that requires attention in the context under consideration. are given seventy-five pages all together. With this systematic presentation of the changing landscape of Arab literary production and Arabic literature. although it does coincide with the emergence of new styles and themes. the three hundred years preceding the New Age. Zayd¯ an reacts to the profound social and cultural transformations under conditions of European colonialism. Zayd¯ an’s attempt at writing a new kind of literary history was belittled by some scholars for not being as original as the author claims it to be. Similarly. and its far-reaching impact on the literary field as such. and influence. namely the relationship between Arab and European scholarship. Of the Arab precursors. be they Arabic or European. the organizing principle follows now along proto­ national divisions and new literary institutions. He duly acknowledges those European scholars who developed during their “recent renaissance”32 the concept of literary history. Zayd¯ an introduces new categories and aspects that he did not apply to the previous periods. To present the nahda. journals. following the spirit of his time. Zayd¯ an lists. among others. and refers us to matters of transferability of concepts and . Remarkably. literary schools.31 Zayd¯ an made no secret of his sources of reference and inspiration.446 new literary history of Arabic literature and sciences are thought to have fallen into darkness and stagnation. Westernization implies at once a one-way impact and a superiority of Western values to which others adhere. “Westernization” is the term that has been most widely used in (literary) history to describe the effects of cultural contact. which include the listing of libraries. associations. This event marks the advent of modernity. as Zayd¯ an. labels it. the term “the New Age” is equally bare of literary qualification. Being neither dynastic nor religious but adopted from political discourse. 1561).34 Be this as it may. while the short New Age fills three hundred pages. from which it emerged only with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt in 1798. leaving little space for modes of inventive incorporation and exchange of ideas. Mapping the new centers of literary production and institutions. and newspapers.33 which differs from earlier Arabic literary inventories. or the New Age (al-casr al-jad¯ Kd). a term that over the last decades has been found increasingly wanting. the renaissance movement of the New Age. and for having “borrowed” generously from contemporary European literary histories.

or rarely periods (modern period. 1856). Über Poesie und Poetik der Araber (Gotha. attempt to present to Western readers a comprehensive Literaturgeschichte der Araber. incomplete.35 In principle. poetry. Ignác Goldziher’s Az arab irodalom rövid története (1908).37 Otto Rescher’s Abriß der arabischen Literaturgeschichte (Constantinople Pera. since Nicholson aimed at drawing a history of ideas but leaving the study of literature rather on the margins of this history. Graf’s equally impressive Geschichte der christlichen arabischen Literatur (Vatican City. Ahlwardt’s treatise. Brockelmann’s gigantic bio-bibliographic Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. 1944–53). from its beginning to the present. A. and C. which has undergone substantial change in recent years. Nallino’s La Littérature arabe des origins à l’époque de la dynastie umayyade (in the French translation of the Italian version by Maria Nallino. classification. scholars single out genres (the novel. Nicholson’s A Literary History of the Arabs (Cambridge.38 Otherwise.36 W. which provides more data. 1925). they applied methodologies and parameters of German and French literary studies to Arabic poetry.” as Gustave Edmund von Grunebaum rightly pointed out.registers of arabic literary history 447 to a divide between the scholarship on both sides of the Mediterranean. 1935). Both of them mark the watershed of literary studies. von Grunebaum’s Kritik und Dichtkunst: Studien zur Arabischen Literaturgeschichte (Wiesbaden. 1864). 2 treats poetry until 1039). to which I referred in the beginning. mainly. Registers of Arabic Literary History— European Contributions European histories of Arabic literature appear for the first time during the second half of the nineteenth century. After Joseph Hammer-Purgstall’s pioneering. to be challenged sixty years later by Fuat Sezgin’s Geschichte des Arabischen Schrifttums (1967–79. and indexing of all of Arabic Schrifttum rather than an intellectual or aesthetic history of literature. though unsuccessful. literary history has become multiauthored . Mostly. being driven by “the romantic universalism of the age. short story). other works explored the field. 1955) and Gibb’s Arabic Literature: An Introduction (1963) tried to fill this gap. For a long period. V. 1922). Gustave E. was later supplemented by G. no attempts were made to write singlehandedly a history of Arabic literature. 7 volumes. In the second half of the twentieth century. Reynold A. vol. was followed by Theodor Nöldeke’s Beiträge zur Kenntnis der Poesie der Alten Araber (Hannover. not unlike Adam Mez’s Renaissance des Islams (Heidelberg. classical period). a political history with some references to literature. individual poets and writers. 1930) resembles only rudimentarily a history of literature but is.

material and period.448 new literary history projects. or. and published in Europe. linguistic. open to these latter traditions. ever more often today as joint projects between Arab and European scholars. organized. in principle.”41 Despite their chronometric limitation. . there remains an uneven balance in both the production and the reception of scholarship. The qualitative markers used. but with ever growing participation of Arab scholars. Arab scholarship that does not participate in the larger international networks often still remains unquoted. and systematic overviews and introductions are still mainly written. such as Oriental. Aramaic. and dispersion. Arab and Arabic. The term Arabic literature is. it is useful to discern three distinct phases and types of globalization. Armenian. expanding globalization of the Imperialist age of the late eighteenth to the twentieth century. of the oikoumene. the second. be they geographic. such as Kurdish or Berber literature. Equally.” or “Near Eastern” or “Middle Eastern” literature or “Mediterranean Literature. social. function as an artificial bracket and confine. but excludes other literatures that are ethnically marked. expansion. the Arab world has always been part of world-historical movements of integration. VI. other constructs such as “literature of the Muslim world. or cultural. such as Jewish and Christian literatures.40 The relatively short-lived and equally unsatisfactory term “Third World Literature” has been replaced by some mainly Anglo-Saxon scholars with the otherwise inflationary terms “colonial” and “postcolonial. as in other cognate fields.39 Edward Said’s Orientalism and the debate about Orientalism have left traces in the field of Arabic literary studies. and. by virtue of its geographic location. derives from the fact that. who are either based in or associated with Western institutions. the problem of defining the subject of study is first of all a problem of unity and of boundaries. Turkish. Hebrew.” Much of this terminological imprecision. and maybe not unlike the field of Islamic studies.42 For the present context. in Hodgson’s term. Persian.” also have their shortcomings. or confusion. encyclopedias. as well as other religious traditions. their assumption of a common universal time in which the literatures of the world are historically interdependent points at what marks “global literature. The first comprises oikumenical globalization of late antiquity to the end of the Abbasid period. Near East and Middle East. Major literary studies. a priori. scientific periodicals. Forms of Globalization and the Literary Field In Arabic literary history. complete histories. Nowadays the much-discredited term “Oriental literature” includes a larger number of lingual media.

Oikumenical globalization demarcates a period stretching from late antiquity to the twelfth century. In contrast to the body of pre-Islamic poetry. and literary realms. politically and culturally. literature. especially in literature. which saw not only the translation of large amounts of Greek materials into Arabic (previously. and cultural diversity of the Muslim empire hitherto was ruled by a homogenous Arab elite. and interpretation at the interface of crossing cultures and civilizations. and scientific traditions. though predominately of Persian origin. did not have much to offer initially. an auxiliary discipline in close proximity to religious sciences. It is needless to add that confining literary movements to these three forms of globalization is a simplified scheme of more complex historical developments.45 this Arabic literature was never “genuinely” Arabian. the weaknesses of the oikumenic character became more pertinent. The new empire was faced with imperial settings at its frontiers—the Byzantine and Persian Empires with high cultures of their own and rich literatures (Coptic. opens up historical and theoretical perspectives on literacy. built by the second Abbasid caliph al-Mansur. known as the . The periodic dominance of Persian over Arab culture. who were of mixed ethnic backgrounds. the spreading Islamic empire of the Arabs from the peninsula. Critical tones.47 With the Abbasid period (750 CE–1258 CE) and the move toward the Arab east. and tafs¯ Kr) and Arab philology. were adopted by the new influential and affluent urban class of secretaries (kutt¯ ab). during which Arabic emerged as the lingua franca for administrative. was the Qur’an and pre-Islamic poetry. but it reflected the vivid urban intellectual milieus and was inspired by emerging Muslim religious sciences (had¯ Kth. including administrative. by Sassanian bureaucrats and scholars. s¯ Kra. dispersal globalization of the current age.registers of arabic literary history 449 finally. Pahlavi. led to reactions of rejection. What was available in the language of the Islamic empire. however. with the new imperial capital Baghdad.43 The newcomer to the region. social. Greek had been translated into Syriac). It will suffice here to sketch out the three phases with regard to the question under consideration. This remarkable expansion of a hitherto tribal language from the Arabian peninsula to a universal medium of communication took place under conditions that were not a priori conducive to this development. and intellectual purposes alike. literary. The ethnic. but also saw the development of an understanding of science colored and shaped by its historical locality. urban adab. The heuristic advantage.46 Baghdad in the ninth century became a center of tremendous intellectual activity. the Abbasid empire was thoroughly shaped. scientific. Arabic. The emergence of a distinct. Syriac.44 reinforced the position of Arabic as a global language. including literature and Arab-Muslim paideia. Greek. Hebrew) with strong religious. and by translations from Byzantine and Persian traditions. religious.

a unification of object and subject in a meta-object that is the text. all of which uniquely meld religio-philosophical and fictional elements in their works. al-Andalus. or indeed Ibn al-cArab¯ K’s (1165–1240) mystical writings. fusing some literary genres but keeping others distinct. The allocation of the Andalusian literary heritage into its “proper” history has been subject to critical investigation. in a cultural milieu that inspired Arab and Persian court poets alike. the literature of al-Andalus genuinely forms part of Arabic tradition and acknowledges the local character and intellectual influence in works such as Ibn Tufayl’s (c. and its popular sister-version. Ibn Hazm’s (994–1064) Tawq al-ham¯ ama. Other such centers of cultural and intellectual fusion are the cities of the southern part of the Iberian Peninsula. shaped by competition as well as by joint scholarly projects. a strophic poetic form in the local vernacular dialect. distinctively characterized by its locality. and civilization. . of course. but which can be traced back to folk songs in Romance language. such as the ghazal (love poetry). which in turn let non-Arab theologians question the superiority of Arabic. Another example of the cosmopolitan character of Andalusian literature and the spirit of a cultural milieu can be traced in the ninth century with the emergence of unique poetical forms. due to its dominant linguistic medium. but also whether it is possible at all to write one literary history of al-Andalus. which uses rhyme and meter unknown in the eastern parts of the Muslim empire. from translations of Greek and Indian works to research of religiously and ethnically mixed scholars. 1110–85) Hayy ibn Yaqz¯ an. and Latin-European or Mediterranean cultures.48 The Shucubiyya (adherents of the non-Arab people) movement questioned the identity of Islam with Arabness. the Arabic (and later also Hebrew) muwashshaha. a tendency that shapes certain sections of Arabic Schrifttum and scholarship in this period and is the result of “an unvarying and conscious manner” that “postulates . European literary history has had problems with absorbing the literature and culture of that period in Spain into its literary canons and histories. as “proven” in and through the Qur’an. .450 new literary history Shucubiyya controversy. text.51 The literatures of al-Andalus and of Abbasid Baghdad demonstrate that as long as we do not recognize the fundamental unity and kinship of the . At its westernmost borders emerged a rich and distinct literature in the Arabic tongue. This problematization not only tackles the question of whether it belonged and thus informed and influenced literary traditions of Arabic. that excludes all others. a poem of five strophes with musical accompaniment. which lasted from the ninth to the eleventh century and stretched over the entire empire. On the other hand. the troubadour genre and certain love motifs. Arguably the Shucubiyya controversy supported the tendency to overdetermine Arabic language. say Arabic. Spanish. the zajal. Hebrew.”49 The Abbasid capital produced a truly cosmopolitan literature.50 The best known example is.

it will not be possible to place literature in a civilizational or global frame. and translation of European genres and works coincide with a shifting understanding of adab. Arabic loses its primacy as a language of education and culture and thus diminishes its universal claims.registers of arabic literary history 451 literatures of various Oriental and Western origins. Arabic literary heritage. as Egyptian. one of the most striking features lies in the fact that the rules have changed fundamentally insofar as questions of influence. adaptation. and literature and Oriental wisdom. Hayden White’s insistence about reading literature strictly historically points in this direction and shows how futile ontological claims can be.52 If this is a useful description for oikumenical globalization. which unite scholars and poets of different backgrounds. adaptation. In . or Lebanese literatures. The third phase of globalization is marked by dispersion and is fully integrated in what has been called postmodern cosmopolitanism. between Western modern science. Approaches that focus mainly on tracing origins and on textual evidence as proof of influence turn a blind eye to those literary processes and social conditions that generate a common literature. Under colonial supremacy of Western European culture. of course. The rise of national literatures in Arabic. in learned circles or schools. The encounter between different literary traditions does not take place in a common shared space. determine a clear-cut split between the East and the West. ideas. while at the same time the newly introduced publishing houses make the literary heritage readily available. Arabic sinks to the rank of backwardness—a trend against which. and the advent of modernities on a global scale. New ideals of literary models develop in imitation. but is marked first by “textual encounter” in the form of translation. are thus becoming the means to overcome spatial distance and social boundaries. Syrian. The imperialist age of the eighteenth to the twentieth centuries. expansionist globalization.53 To turn to the second phase. together with literary imitation. and poetry. a view that was held already by Von Grunebaum. An understanding that places literature at once as part of local or otherwise specific traditions and as part of larger civilizational contexts and genealogies avoids the narrow perspective that assumes “complete” literatures from which others borrow and translate alone. turned into literary writing. The catch-word is so-called “Westernization. reaction is prompt to follow. Iraqi. and syncretism are concerned. and except for the short-lived neoclassical movement during the second half of the nineteenth century. loses its normative role and function as a unique reservoir. tales. restricted to the classical Abbasid period. but also in rejection of European literary forms. which became coterminous with belles-lettres and fiction.” a term that denounces genuine partaking in the advances of Western modernity and that declares a clear hierarchy of relationships. Travels to the capitals of Europe. it is ever more so today.

also occasioned the emergence of Arab national literatures of the newly founded nation-states. style. which was written jointly by the Palestinian writer Jabra Ibr¯ ah¯ Km Jabra and cAbdalrahm¯ an Mun¯ Kf. Iraqi. North African. inner Arab migration often took place in emigration waves—of Syro-Lebanese writers. If travel literature was one of the signatures of the second globalization. apart. That this is not a statement about the historical viability of Arab nation-states goes without saying. rather than national literature. Debates. then the present age differs precisely in that London and Paris have been “taken over” and are places constitutive to Arabic literature as today Arab authors write in many tongues in the capitals of the Western world. for instance. born in Jordan to a Saudi father and Iraqi mother. about the “authenticity” of “la littérature maghrebine en langue francaise” vanished in recent years as French literature written by Arabs and North Africans has been well established within French. of course. But. The tumbling down of national literatures affects Arabic literary history to a lesser degree than it affects others. Arabic. and with it the advent of modernity. most notably English literary history. that incorporates Syrian. under increasing Ottoman censorship and sectarian pressure since the 1860s. specific national characteristics on the level of genre. It is not only the ideal of pan-Arabism. the major characteristic is that London and Paris are no longer places to travel to. where both authors lived for some time. The universalizing effects of expansionist globalization and colonialism.452 new literary history comparison to expansionist globalization. . but soon after also to Latin and North America.54 Arabic literary history comes closer to this reality if it adopts the locus genius as historical and categorical framework. Palestinian. in the Arab case there is one lingua franca. to Egypt. with dialectical nuances and colorit. and other national literatures into one and thus makes it difficult to draw clear boundaries between these national literatures. from specifically national themes. and Arabic literary canons. and motif are rather difficult to discern in Arabic literature. For whereas Arabic popular literature often lives from its local colorit. Emblematic of this situation is the aesthetic and personal ¯ experiment of the metafictional novel Alam bi-l¯ a khar¯ Kta (World Without a Map). the great exodus of Palestinian writers after 1948 to neighboring countries. in contrast to national ideologies that reside in great measure in the identity of a people and its language transcended through national literature. and of Iraqi Jewish writers to Israel in 1948. as often called dead as it reappears. and which explores this existential experience in the mundane world of Baghdadi society in the 1970s. Apart from individual mobility and exile.

Parameters for histories of Arabic literature follow the two registers used in Arab historiography. The Problems of Periodization If these three forms of globalization offer a useful framework for the study and history of synchronic aspects of literature. early Islam. periodizations of Arabic literary history conventionally follow that of Arab dynastic-Islamic history: the pre-Islamic period (commonly referred to as J¯ ahiliyya). the year of the catastrophic Arab defeat (nakba) brought about by Israel (and the West). a technically oriented one using repertoire and narrative structures and a typological one organizing its material according to categories. century) or rhetorical patterns of rise and fall.registers of arabic literary history 453 VII. These. and in contrast to modern ideas that these belong to two distinct disciplines. and then. isl¯ amiy¯ un (Islamic poets). with the arrival of Napoleon Bonaparte in Egypt. the Umayyad and the Abbasid periods. do not offer much more than abstract notions to the given and unquestioned periodization. As mentioned above. . . be it as a realm of its own or be it subsequent to other. and finally the muhdath¯ un (modernists). such as the Clas- . globalization referred to in political terms with the neologism al-‘aul¯ ama. however.56 By and large. there emerged periodizations applying seemingly neutral or metaphorical terms. do not escape religious terminology when they continue classifying authors as j¯ ahiliy¯ un (poets of the era of Ignorance). however. Organizing principles of literary history are not self-evident but result from a specific understanding of literature.55 Organizing principles. chronology and geography or elements of profane dynastic and sacred history. torn by wars. mukhadram¯ un (the generation between pagans and Islamic poets). second. other periodizations employ neutral. Modernist Arab poets and scholars of the ninth and tenth century. marked further by the year 1967. centennial divisions (first. followed by the wars and struggle for independence of the new nation-states. the Ottoman period. who stand in opposition to all earlier poets. diachronic aspects of history still require special consideration. then the classical age of the Muslim empires. traditionally history is but a subcategory of adab. sees the Arab world as divided into the oil and gas rich states of the Gulf and the former core-lands of Arabic culture and literature. followed by the lacuna of the period of the last Muslim Empire.57 Upholding the foundational division of the time before and after the rise of Islam. the muhdath¯ un. are adapted from historiography into literary history. Departing from these religio-political chronologies. The present historical situation. and the postcolonial period. prior forms of organization. the beginning of the Arab renaissance and colonization. and in accordance with the Aristotelian view that history and literature are complementary. third .

whereas Ottoman and Turkish literatures developed as rivals. thus the somewhat charged notion of the “postclassical period. the so-called Age of Decline. the CHAL jumped some 400 centuries. Similarily. But it became associated with a literature of the past. Arabic literature maintains a privileged status in certain areas of religious sciences and in high culture. including terms such as “Classical” or “Golden Age” since they tend to parallel political strength with artistic quality and quantity. insists that the so-called “period of decadence” (casr al-inhit¯ at) is far from being void of significant literary production. namely the long period from the fifteenth to the end of the eighteenth century in the Arab world. to be precise the period between 1258 and 1798. Again. I believe. In the introduction to the sixth volume. postmodernity. Addressing this period from the perspective of globalization offered here would provide. a greater readiness to perceive the varying rhythms and shifts of center and influence within the region of concern here. the widespread perception that modern Arabic literature is predominantly an offspring of imitated Western literature adds to the view that cuts off continuity with earlier traditions and renders any aesthetical and historical evaluation of that premodern period even more . Following conventional periodization. Arabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period.58 Since these centuries. it is still impossible to attempt to define these centuries in literary terms. An illustration of the infancy of Arabic periodization was provided recently with the publication of the sixth volume of The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature (CHAL). from the so-called “Golden Age” of Islam and Arab civilization until the advent of modernity. Westernization and nahda. Describing or defining this period in literary terms is not only a terminological problem. dates that mark the Mongol invasion in Baghdad and the French arrival in Egypt. is to open it up to the perspective proposed here. which suffers from terminological and categorical problems as all middle periods do. and inclusion of social and cultural groups.” Another way of looking at this period. Nowhere is the problem of periodization more evident than in what remains one of the major chronological lacunae not only for literary history but Arab history in general. have been left unstudied. and with some delay.454 new literary history sical Age or Golden Age followed by the Silver Age and then the Age of Darkness.59 With the rise of the Ottoman Empire (1300–1922) and the Safavid empire (1502–1722). its editor. but touches upon matters of genres. publishing the volume on Modern Arabic Literature directly after that of the Abbasid period and an extra volume on Andalusian literature. high and low culture. these categories and periods are entirely defined by factors external to literature. followed by the Zand and Qajar dynasties and the rise of Persian and Ottoman as imperial languages. Roger Allen.

this idea reaches far back to earlier registers of literary history and signals ways to go in the future. goes back to the occasion of revelation itself. Literature. which at all times had a role to play in the quest for truth. but also resides in particular kinds of writing. but stimulated debates about the edifying nature of literature. provides insights into its deeper aspects. After the setbacks and insights of postcolonial and postmodern criticism. In the same vain. if briefly. a repertoire at best. At the end of my contribution. the intensified search for meaning and certainties did not restrict itself to the revival of religion as faith and object of study. One of the lessons we learned from modern literary history.60 but also of canonicity. The association of literature and spirits is probably as old as literature. and objectivity. truth. Stripped of its national frame of reference. merging into distinct features of a place or region. beauty.61 may find in literary studies new ground. however. and. Sources of Inspiration—Of Jinnis and the Genius I referred earlier to the genius loci in its spatial aspect and as a social and material condition for mutual literary inspiration of different literary traditions. After all. Matters that have been dismissed as purely driven by ideology. and universalism.registers of arabic literary history 455 difficult. another quality of inspiration and to turn to the spirit of literary history.62 The spirit not only visits the genial writer. Returning to these questions seems to be an adequate way for discerning criteria of literary history in the global. attempts to retrace indigenous literary genealogies. if they are posed from radical historical perspectives. VIII. a critical revision of parameters and methodologies is required that advances the possibilities of universal ideas without giving in to all too handy and reassuring certainties. under the pressure of globalization and the crisis of secularism. such as the maq¯ am¯ at form of an Bad¯ Kc al-Zam¯ an al-Hamadh¯ an¯ K (968–1008) or al-Har¯ Kr¯ K (1054–1122) of the classical period as precursor to the short story. stop short at retracing those lines through the long postclassical period. which institutionalized the idea that literature and its history captures the spirit of a people. I seek to invoke. moreover. such as questions of virtue. During the last decade or so. however. the Arabic classical tradition always trusted more in the medium of adab and its potential for truth and value than it trusted in philosophy (falsafa). is that a literary history without inspiration remains a catalog. the association of spirit and poetry goes back to the foundational text of Islam. In Arabic tradition. Central to the motive of the Prophet’s honesty and authenticity are the repeated Qur’anic rejections asserting that Muhammad is not a sooth- .

64 The belief in these beings predates Islam and points back to heathen Arabia. that revealed truth is the only form of truth.65 The Qur’an left scholars and poets in a vexed situation. the situation is far from being univocal. Poetry gets cast as falsehood and magic. there existed the widespread view that humans are or can be possessed or charmed by jinn. though. however. still poses the ground for controversial interpretation as to whether and to what extent the Qur’an condemns literature as such. The linguistic ambiguity of verses 224–27 has opened a wide field for speculation. the Qur’an is not poetry and that its source of inspiration is of a different. Arabic.66 What is of relevance. That this division is not so easily upheld has been tested time and again by Arab poets who negate the separation and the two kinds of inspiration. Corresponding to ideas of the Greek daemon. The competition of spirits. Early on. with one hadith or sura being cited to prove the opposite view of another. being associated with soothsaying and myth. had consequences for poetry. through proof of their poetry. The presence of the jinn. The theological doctrine of the inimitability of the Qur’an (icj¯ az al-qur’¯ an) declares the divine text as a matchless miracle of aesthetic expression. had¯Kth literature. a collective noun of the singular jinn¯K . ifr¯Kt. however. “in the clear language of Arabic” (bi-lis¯ an c arab¯ K mub¯ Kn) (sura 26. poetry became the major form of artistic and edifying expression.456 new literary history sayer (k¯ ahin) but a prophet (ras¯ ul) and that his message is not poetry (shicr) but divine message (ris¯ ala). shayt¯ an. the theological dogma provoked satirical responses by poets who contested. those benign ones that inspire prophets and so Muhammad—“but down on Muhammad came the spirit of faithfulness” (nazala bi-hi al-r¯ uhu al-am¯ Knu). ruh. If with the advent of Islam. The Qur’anic disclaimer that. consequently. poetry comes into question. On the contrary. as has been discussed above. After the first revelation Muhammed received through the archangel J¯Kbr¯Kl (Gabriel). especially the verses 224–27). to the present argument is the fact that poetry did not vanish after the Qur’an. he initially feared being possessed by jinn. the dogma and. divine nature.63 These repetitions occurring in the Qur’an. one occasioned by the spirit (r¯ uh) to . but they are not necessarily benevolent. Paradoxically. yet it remains the sole linguistic and historical source for that language in which the Qur’an was revealed. They can be companions and a source of inspiration. and Islamic exegetical works are a clear token of belief in the presence and power of supernatural beings. examples of which were many at his time. the “Sura on the Poets” (sura 26. 193 and 195)—and those that inspire poets and soothsayers seemingly demarcate a clear line of division between the sacred and the profane. the sura that addresses directly the issue of poetry. despite a certain resemblance. and so on). refers to a specific class of beings made of white fire (gh¯ ul.

In one of the popular stories. or shayat¯ Kn (devils) to come down on poets. These ideas long troubled the minds of scholars. during which he visits. that is the realm of God. and throughout the centuries. O mighty one such that when memories remember him he comes to them. The depiction of the poet’s journey. the Qur’an. such as the modern Egyptian poet Shukr¯ K al-‘Aqq¯ ad (1889–1964). with his familiar jinn. The epistle. like as he hath plotted with his cunning and perfidy.registers of arabic literary history 457 descend on prophets and one by jinn. the fisherman reseals the mocking jinn¯K in its bottle. For I conceal the abodes of those who remember. the jinn¯ K advises the narrator to call him whenever he is in need of inspiration and to recite the following lines: Come Zuhair of love. professed to prophet-like qualities and to receiving inspiration (wahy). as James T. authors of the modern age. even though sand dunes are far from my abode. if frightful. Should mouths ever express their remembrance I imagine that I am kissing her mouth. then. evokes a powerful image and sense of the timeless presence of the poetic genius. to remember. Monroe demonstrates. demons. While for earlier ages the animated world of the jinn was more actual. Ab¯ u Bakr Yahya Ibn Hazm. Epistle of Familiar Jinn and Whirling Demons (Ris¯ alat al-taw¯ abi’ wa-al. with a love for their love. the jinn of the great Arab poets and writers of the past. conjuring the presence of the jinn¯ K as the beloved.68 This rejection develops. he uses his sound reason to “now plot his destruction with my art and reason.69 In Arabic. into a Neoplatonic treatise about the sources of poetical inspiration and the essential beauty of poetry.70 Rejecting an aestheticism that is founded entirely on rhetoric. apart from its .zaw¯ ab¯ K’ ). literary sources testify to the inspiring. In its references to the jinn¯ K. aspect of the jinn¯ K. with the help of his jinn¯K. Ibn Shuhayd wrote the epistle as an ironic and self-confident rejection of the accusation of plagiarism put forward by the scholar and vizier. Against the magic power of the jinn¯ K. or the poetic genius. In the scene that depicts the first encounter of the narrator. or the poetic genius. “The Fisherman” from Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. Arabic literature is far from homogenous. and eloquence. the three hemistiches are an artful play with the multiple meanings of the verb dhakara (to mention. to name) used as verb and substantives. a term with clear religious connotation. Ibn Shuhayd alludes to the jinn¯ K as joining the poet’s intellect and imagination with the realm of the divine.”67 A positive attitude toward the jinn as a source of inspiration is found in the work of the Andalusian poet Ibn Shuhayd al-Andal¯ us¯K (992–1035). named Zuhayr Ibn Numayr from the tribe of the Ban¯ u Ashjac of the jinn.

rev. my translations). International Sociology 16. the great Mesopotamian epic of the third millennium BCE. 3 (2001). finds itself inseparably tied to the question of the aesthetic realm. totalizing theories have rightly lost their attractiveness.458 new literary history defense of the active poetical imagination. as of art. see Jóhann P.” 3 “ . but also through the act of visiting. auf die Wortkunst im engeren Sinne beschränken. The transhistorical presence of literature is channeled through cultural mechanisms of memorizing. Árnason. as a source of Western tradition. (Leiden. Said Arjomand. J. and “Rethinking Civilizational Analysis. that its presence does not depend on (institutionalized) mediation alone. Central European University Notes 1 Carl Brockelmann. die auch die Islamwelt der europäischen Kultur immer mehr angleicht.” ed.: Brill. In Lieu of a Conclusion There is a vast space for alternative approaches to literary history between Goethe’s futuristic idea of a Weltliteratur as a vision of the harmonious melding of the world’s best literatures into a great synthesis.: E. and poetic genius. 2 “Daher muss der Historiker der arabischen Literatur alle diese Erscheinungen in seinen Bereich ziehn und darf sich erst in der Neuzeit. For it is an attribute and a peculiarity of literature. invested much energy in defining the possibilities and the limits of literature. . no. Yet literary history does bestow broader meaning upon a work. ed. Arabic literary tradition. Neth. 2003). and the hegemonic incorporation of The Epic of Gilgamesh. Civilizations in Dispute: Historical Questions and Theoretical Traditions (Leiden. 1943). Neth. exploring the possibilities of literature and situating it in its civilizational context.” 4 For a summary and insightful discussion on the possibilities and limits of the concept from a global perspective. and reading. consulting. After the paradigmatic changes in the field of historiography. . reveals another elementary aspect of literature. The plenum of documents and narratives. Geschichte der arabischen Litteratur. 1:1 (hereafter cited in text. after postcolonial and postmodern criticism. special issue. . von den Ufern des Pontus bis nach Zanzibar. and interpreting. as we have seen. which establishes historically possible narratives. von Fez und Timbuktu bis nach Kasgar und den Sundainseln. IX. canonizing. Brill. as Hayden White calls it.71 Literary histories that trace historical transfigurations and possibilities of literature will write the chapters on “The Global Age” with a certain sense of a revenant. its sources of inspiration. not only in the (post) modern world.

” in Abbasid Belles-Lettres. 326–45. Arabic Literature: An Introduction (London: Oxford Univ. . 1963) and Wolfhart Heinrichs. ed. C. “adab”. The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the West: With Special Reference to Scholasticism (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. Gibb et al.registers of arabic literary history 459 5 For a precise and thoughtful reflection on the usage of terms in the field of Islamic civilization. vol. “Adab and the Concepts of Belles-Lettres. 1971). 16 Ibn Khald¯ un. s. Arabische Dichtung und griechische Poetik: Hazim al-Qartagannis Grundlegung der Poetik mit Hilfearistotelischer Begriffe (Wiesbaden: F. Kamal Abu Deeb. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh adab al-lugha al-arabiyy (Cairo: Dar al-Hilal. 1990). NJ: Princeton Univ. 1990). 1974). no. 9 Harold Bloom. 31–48. Crabbs. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh al-callama Ibn Khald¯ un—Kitab al-cibar [Book of Advice] (Beirut: D¯ ar Kit¯ ab al-lubn¯ aniyya. H. George Makdisi. ed. 1:7–10. 1967). S. For a discussion of adab from the perspective of education in the classical period. “Variations sur le Thème de l’adab.: Brill. A. 1984). Press. 1983). 14 Brian Stock. Steiner. 2:1055.. 3–70.” in Canon and Canonization. 1969). ed. The Venture of Islam: Conscience and History in a World Civilization. Press. The Sense of an Ending (New York: Oxford Univ. NJ: Princeton Univ. Press. The Rise of Humanism in Classical Islam and the Christian West (Edinburgh: Edinburgh Univ. 18 Ibn Khald¯ un. ed. 1926. coined the term to analyze literacy and textuality for a different kind of textuality in the eleventh and twelfth century.v. MA: Harvard Univ. 12 See Ihsan Abbas. 97–120. Bonebakker. Al-Jurjani’s Theory of Poetic Imagery (Warminster. trans. 1995). 8 For a summary discussion on the development of adab. “The Muslim Canon from Late Antiquity to the Age of Modernism: Typology. 22 See Jack A. R. 1957). Oxford: Clarendon. 20 Ibn Khald¯ un. “Der Begriff adab und sein literarischer Niederschlag.” in Orientalisches Mittelalter. Utility. Aziz Al-Azmeh (Budapest: Central European Univ. See Brian Stock. The Muqaddimah: An Introduction to History. 1. A. Press. “‘Takhyil’ and its Traditions. 11 On canonization processes in Islam. Christoph Bürgel (Wiesbaden: AULA-Verlag. 1986). T¯ ar ¯ Kkh al-adab al-carab¯ K (Cairo: Dâr al-Ma‘ârif. Wolfhart Heinrichs and J. Implications of Literacy: Written Lanuage and Models of Interpretation in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Princeton. see Pellat Charles. 7 Encyclopaedia of Islam (EI2). The Western Canon: The Books and School of the Ages (New York: Riverhead. Neth. J. Julia Ashtiany et al. 1990). 227–47. vol. 1 (2007): 1. 1960). van den Toorn (Leiden. UK: Aris and Philips. reprinted in The Times of History: Universal Topics in Islamic Historiography. 1990). “The Notion of Literature. T¯ ar ¯ See also Gibb. though. The Writing of History in Nineteenth-Century Egypt (Cairo: American Univ. 12. (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ Press. rev. 17 Ibn Khald¯ un. A. Neth. 191–228. Dawood. Fähndrich Hartmut. 1979) or Wolfhart Heinrichs. 1998). Kit¯ ab al-cibar.: Brill. 411 (hereafter cited in text). in Cairo Press.” New Literary History 38. 13 Kermode. 1:8. Alma Giese and J. ed. Franz Rosenthal (Princeton. 2:1070. 1969). 15 Shawq ¯K Dayf. Kkh al-naqd al-adabi ‘inda al-Arab (Beirut: Dar al-Amanah. see George Makdisi. 2007). for instance. 21 Jurji Zayd¯ an.” Correspondance d’Orient. Press. Kit¯ ab al-cibar. The Genesis of Secrecy: On the Interpretation of Narrative (Cambridge. 1979). 1960). 19 See. of Chicago Press. and History. 1994). ed. 2:1056. Bürgel (Bern: Peter Lang. see Aziz Al-Azmeh. 6 Tzvetan Todorov. Press. see Marshall Hodgson. 23 Inaugurated at the young Cairo University founded in 1905. 11. Press. 1. Press. N.” in Gott ist Schön und er liebt die Schönheit. van der Kooij and K. Études 5–6 (1964): 19–37. The Classical Age of Islam (Chicago: Univ. 10 Frank Kermode. ed. (Leiden. ed.

NJ: Princeton Univ. Sabra. 47 A. József Somogyi (Hyderabad. German. Neth. “Situating Arabic Science: Locality versus Essence. ed. Heinrichs and Bürgel. 1:15. Norris. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh adab. 30 See Zayd¯ an. Taha Husayn. 49 Abdullah Laroui. English. Fr. 7–16. ed. 36 On the beginnings of the study of Arabic literature. see the four articles by Carsten Colpe in Orientalisches Mittelalter. 5. 48 Encyclopaedia of Islam. 35 Freiherr von Joseph Hammer-Purgstall. which. 44 Tarif Khalidi. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh adab.” Zayd¯ an aligns the nineteenth-century Arab renaissance movement to a worldwide development. and trans. 1850–56).” Isis 87. as the title poignantly indicates. 48–50. 1934). famously raised by the Egyptian writer Taha Husayn in the early twentieth century. 50 See Maria Rosa Menocal. which he consulted for his history. 1998). eds. 33 Using the Arabic term nahda for “modernity. 34 This work has been translated into German by Oskar Rescher (Stuttgart. 7 vols.” and H. 38 An exception is Roger Allen’s The Arabic Literary Heritage: The Developments of Its Genres and Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Peri J. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh adab.v. the heretical question. see Gustave Edmund von Grunebaum. Classical Arab Islam: The Culture and Heritage of the Golden Age (Princeton. as to whether pre-Islamic poetry is at all authentic shall not interest us here. 1992).: Islamic Culture Board. consult Heinrichs. Diarmid Cammell (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. 25 According to his own account in al-Hil¯ a l 9 (1894). 1800–1945 (Arles. Press. Ind. Bearman et al. 51. Press. 1955). Fi al-shic r al-jahili (Cairo: Dar-Kuttub al-masriyya. Orientalisches Mittelalter. . 1976).: Sindbad. Christian. ed. 31–141. 1:12–13. I. new ed. of Pennsylvania Press. Harrassowitz. provides a list of books in Arabic. s.460 new literary history 24 Parts of the book were published already in 1894 in the journal Zayd¯ an edited. 1: 45. The Crisis of the Arab Intellectual: Traditionalism or Historicism? trans.: Brill. 3:283.” in Abbasid Belles-Lettres. 1. though. 28 Zayd¯ an. The Arabic Role in the Medieval Literary History: A Forgotten Heritage (Philadelphia: Univ. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh adab. 46 For comprehensive overviews of various aspects of this history. Literaturgeschichte der Araber. 4 (1996): 655. 1:8. 43 For the various aspects (Greek. avoids the concept of a “history. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh adab.’” in In Theory: Classes.. 40 See in this regard the introduction to Heinrichs and Bürgel. Literatures (London: Verso. 32 This is the intermediary period before the age of the footnote and after the age of manuscript culture with its margins and glossaries. Persian. vol. Jewish. 45 For now. 41 On the career of this concept. 42 Hodgson. 1926). 1:14.” in Kritik und Dichtkunst: Studien zur arabishen Literaturgeschichte (Wiesbaden: O. “Shuc¯ ubiyya.. Histoire de la littérature arabe moderne. 31–48. 1960– 2005). Nations.” 39 Boutros Hallaq and Heidi Toëlle. see Aijaz Ahmad. 1:14. Sabra notes “the advantages of a strict adherence to the axiom of locality in situating the tradition of Arabic science with reference both to the place that this tradition occupies in the general history of science and to its place in the civilization where it emerged and developed” (655). 26 Zayd¯ an. no. 2007). T. 29 Zayd¯ an. 1987). 1985). 1994.. 109. of California Press. the Cairo-based al-Hil¯ al. “Shuc¯ ubiyyah in Arabic Literature. and Aramaic). 37 Translated from the Hungarian original of Ignác Goldhizer as A Short History of Arabic Literature. T¯ ar ¯ Kkh adab. “Literary Theory and ‘Third World Literature. and French. 1958). (Leiden. (Vienna: Kaiserliche und Köngliche Hof-und Staatsdruckerei. Venture of Islam. 27 Zayd¯ an. 31 Zayd¯ an. 12 vols. Ashtiany. 657. “Zum Studium der Arabischen Literatur im Westen. ed.

55 White.” History and Theory 14.” 147. S. 2003). 64 On this complex. The Treatise of ¯ Familiar Spirits and Demons by Ab¯ u ‘Amir ibn Shuhaid al-Ashjacî. J. 61 On this quest of the aesthetical autonomy of literature programmatically. 4 (1952): 238. 52.” PMLA 116. no. no. Risalat. Stephen Greenblatt. 27.registers of arabic literary history 461 51 James T. 2–3 (2005): 147–57. Abhandlungen zur Arabischen Philologie (Leiden.” in The Legacy of Muslim Spain. S. 2006). “Introduction: Historical Fiction. 59 On this topic. 52 Von Grunebaum. al-Andalus ¯K . See Waïl S. . ed. “Globalizing Literary Study. “What Is the History of Literature?” Critical Inquiry 23. a’u yatabic¯ uhumu al-ghâw’ûn) translates. 24. editor of the sixth volume to the series The Cambridge History of Arabic Literature (1989–2007). 3 (1997): 461–80.” Journal of Near Eastern Studies 11. Monroe. trans.: Brill. 62 Some years ago Stephen Greenblatt made the same allusion.” in Stories from the Thousand and One Nights. Edward William Lane. 71 As happened in the Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces. Press. Roger Allen. 1–23. no. 67 “The Story of the Fisherman. 1 (2000): 41. see Randolph Starn. “They say: Thou art only one of those bewitched (min al-musaharriyuna) and think you are a liar” (Qur’an 26:185–86). 69 Monroe. 58 See the introduction by Roger Allen. “A Mantic Manifesto: The Sura of the Poets and the Qu’ranic Foundations of Prophetic Authority. depending 66 The sentence in question (al-shucar¯ on the contextual interpretation. of California Press. 57 Heinrichs. Kugel (Ithaca. “The Post-Classical Period: Parameters and Preliminaries. ed. “World Literature in the Age of Globalization: Reflections on an Anthology. and Ignaz Goldziher. “Avicenna’s Risâla fi ‘l-išhq and Courtly Love. 68 See James T. esp. After Theory (London: Verso. Collier.” Terry Eagleton. 53 See Hayden White. 1909).” in Poetry and Prophecy. Terry Eagleton insists that in the face of the economic forces of the global age “cultural theory must start thinking ambitiously once again. 54 Jabra Ibr¯ ah¯Km Jabra and Abdalrahm¯ an Mun¯Kf. ed. no. no. 1 (1975): 1–31. “Poetic Genius and Poetic Jinni: The Case of Ibn Shuhayd. 70 A variant and suggestive translation is given by Suzanne Pinckney Stetchkevych. rev. see Michel Zwettler. 1 (2001): 64–68. esp. nos. 1982).” obviously leaving several options for interpretation. Arabische Dichtung. K. “Introduction. F. Neth. 63 See. 1971). Richards (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. “Zajal and Muwashshaha. The Times of History: Universal Topics in Islamic Historiography (Budapest: Central European Press. Press. 156. NY: Cornell Univ. 60 For instance. 1990). Hassan. “Meaning-Levels in the Theme of Decline. as either “the poets are followed by demons” or “the poets are followed by those who have gone astray. 38–40. trans. 1896).: Brill. 73. 56 Aziz Al-Azmeh.” Rethinking History 9. 152. Each volume is edited by another team.” College English 63. 65 For brief overviews. Fictional History. 1992). Neth. L. Jayyusi (Leiden.” in Arabic Literature in the Post-Classical Period. 86. and Historical Reality. Monroe (Berkeley and Los Angeles: Univ. see the articles on “djinn” in the EI2 and on “jinn” in Encyclopaedia of the Qur’an. 32. 1:107–17.” International Journal of Middle East Studies 39 (2007): 333. 398–419. 2007). Stanley Lane-Poole (New York: P. see Edward Said. Allen and D. for example. Monroe’s introduction to Ris¯ alat at-taw¯ abi’ wa z-zaw¯ abi’. Alam bi-l¯ a khar¯K ta (Beirut: al-Muassasah al-`Arabiyah lil-Dirasat wa-al-Nashr.

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