Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam

Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam

Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam

Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights into Classical Arabic Literature and Islam

Synopsis

This volume deals with the genesis of selected classical Arabic texts as the products of different milieus, and the implications which these texts had for Islamic societies in medieval times. It explores the concepts and images which Muslim scholars from the 8th to the 14th century presented in their writings and, in particular, ponders the ways in which these authors used specific methods of portrayal either overtly or more subtly to advance their ideas. The fresh theoretical and methodological approaches applied in this book facilitate the understanding of how medieval Muslim writers expressed their views and, more importantly, why they expressed them in the way they did. This helps disclose, for example, how the images of historically or religiously significant figures in Arabic-Islamic culture have been developed and shaped in the process of their literarization.""

Excerpt

Exciting things are happening in Arabic-Islamic intellectual history. the present collection of articles is an example of what new methodologies and new formulations of old questions can yield by way of insights. It is therefore a pleasure and a privilege to be asked to write a Foreword to this volume, one which sets out to show what a younger generation of Arabists and Islamicists can bring to a discipline which, in the West at least, can be traced back to the Renaissance of the twelfth century.

As this volume of essays demonstrates, there are several reasons for this excitement. the first and most visible in my view is the new and more systematic attention being paid by younger scholars to current theoretical breakthroughs in intellectual and cultural history. Such postulates as speech-act theory, theories of representation, new quantitative methodologies, textual theories, new historicist theories, the impact of contemporary social science theory and, in particular, a number of prominent modern theorists like Clifford Geertz and Michel Foucault, have all combined to deepen our understanding of classical Arabic culture and literature.

The second reason emanates from the first. By invoking new methodologies and in asking new questions, these essays are helping to bring the field of pre-modern Arabic-Islamic culture into line with what is already happening in adjacent fields, e.g. the study of medieval Europe. My generation of students of classical Arabic culture had not been as open to theory as this younger generation is. Thus, we would occasionally cast envious eyes at other medievalist colleagues, at the theoretical freshness and vividness of their work, the windows they opened onto subjects and themes there for the grasping in our own immensely rich Arabic sources. Why did we not attempt a classical Arabic Montaillou? An Arabic Peter Brown's Augustine? a study à la Le Goff 's Intellectuals?

I am delighted that this collection of essays shows that we are now taking firm steps in that direction. in one area at least our sources are incomparably richer: the area of biography. No pre-modern civilization known to me teems with so many people, with flesh and blood individuals, men and women, as does classical Arabic. A

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