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Classical Matters: Periodization, Diversity, and Inventiveness

Session X-15, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, December 3 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
This panel attempts to open up further discussions with respect to issues of generational gaps, continuities, ruptures, diversities in stylistics, poetics, and communities. It interrogates the tendency to read the classical as a truism and allows more space for experimentation as a dynamism that was behind the sustainability and death of certain modes and attitudes. The panel attempts to make use of current theories when applicable to come to grips with outstanding issues that go beyond the customary paradigm of ancients and moderns. It also opts to explore other rich experiments in the North African cultural production, which has remained for long peripheral to the well-established centricity of production in the eastern flank of Arab culture. Papers touch on these and other issues to make this panel a rich contribution to the ongoing revitalization of studies in the classical tradition. It combines historical accounts, with theoretical explorations and makes use of rhetoric, philology, and grand or minority narratives.
  • Plagiarism as a Dynamic in Innovation and Inventiveness This intervention runs against the common misreading of plagiarism as theft, pure and simple. It draws attention not only to the most visible critiques, like those by al-Hatimi, Ibn Rashiq, Abd al-Aziz al-Jurjani, al-Askari, and later ibn Wakīᶜ, Ibn Nubata, and al-Nawaji. It also directs attention to peripheral names whose contribution makes up no small portion of a cultural script over many centuries. The buildup of this movement does not end with the accusations levelled at al-Mazini, who happened to be a pioneer in poetic innovation. In other words, this movement could not have secured so many contributions had it not been central to a culture that has as its focal point of interest the seeming polarization between originality and imitation. In between polarized spaces, there are voices that think of literary production as an intertext that is made up of words that work in turn as navigational apparatuses. This contribution argues a case for plagiarism as a dynamic propelled by many incentives and desires that aim at innovation and betterment
  • This paper engages the three foci of the present panel, Periodization, Diversity, and Inventiveness, to investigate the changes in poetics and aesthetics in Classical Arabic poetry, particularly in the late 4th/10th and 5th/11th century. It will attempt to argue that these changes shape out the transition from Classical to Postclassical poetry in the Arabic tradition. In terms of Periodization, while arguing, together with the well-established revisionist movement, that the 5th/11th through 12th/18th centuries cannot be dismissed, as was generally accepted in literary historical circles until the late 20th century, as an “age of decline”, this paper eschews the term “Premodern” to argue that what might better be termed the “Postclassical” period grounded its aesthetics on the recognition of the Jahili through Late Abbasid poets as the “classical” foundation, with which they saw themselves as competing as they strove to produce their own original poetry. Far from seeing themselves as mere epigones of the Masters of the Classical periods, the Postclassical poets introduced into their poetry new forms, themes, and rhetorical expectations, and celebrated their own inventiveness and originality. By their own aesthetic metrics, they even boasted that they could outdo the Classical Masters. This paper will focus on examples such as the Hijaziyyat of al-Sharif al-Radi, The Luzumiyyat of al-Ma’arri, and the Madih Nabawi (al-Shuqratisiyyah) of al-Shuqratisi, to demonstrate the evolution of poetic aesthetics in form, theme, and rhetoric in this transitional period.
  • In this presentation, I analyze and translate a previously unstudied 83-line qaṣīdah from 15th-century CE Granada, written by jurist and zajal poet ʿUmar al-Mālaqī (d. after 1440 CE). Scholars lack Arabic sources for this period, making the poem a key find in literary history. It is remarkable for its treatment of the Banū Sāsān, a legendary criminal society with roots in the Islamic East (al-Mashriq). While hewing closely to some expectations of the genre, such as “jest and earnest” (hazl wa-jidd) and mock loyalty pledges to “Sheikh Sāsān,” it departs from them in other ways, most especially with a virtuoso catalogue of allusions to history, literature, magic, and locations in Iberia and North Africa. The qaṣīdah thus teaches readers about literary history, tempering as it does an eastern literary mode with western Islamic flavor. What's more, it does so with a more erudite tone that also serves as an index of contemporary intellectual trends. For this panel, ʿUmar al-Mālaqī's poem shows the breadth and variety of medieval Islamic West creativity and defies the standard focus on court poetry, above all by al-Mutanabbī, when studying East-West Arabic reception.