The Arabic Literary Heritage: The Developments of its Genres and Criticism.Roger Allen, The Arabic Literary Heritage: The Developments of its Genres and Criticism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press Cambridge University Press (known colloquially as CUP) is a publisher given a Royal Charter by Henry VIII in 1534, and one of the two privileged presses (the other being Oxford University Press). , 1998. 437 pages, including index. Hardcover $95.00.
"It is with a conscious awareness of the need for an introductory work for a general, non-specialist readership that I have written this book," states Roger Allen in his well-written and thoroughly researched volume on Arabic literature Arabic literature, literary works written in the Arabic language. The great body of Arabic literature includes works by Arabic speaking Turks, Persians, Syrians, Egyptians, Indians, Jews, and other Africans and Asians, as well as the Arabs themselves. . In The Arabic Literary Heritage, Allen provides the general reader with a highly digestible digestible
having the quality of being able to be digested.
the proportion of the potential energy in a feed which is in fact digested.
see digestible protein. and extremely useful account of an otherwise intractable, if not quite unmanageable, field of discourse. For the purists among students of Arabic literature, there is always the impressive, multi-volume Cambridge History of Arabic Literature, which is a collaborative effort among many scholars in the field.
Seeking to strike a balance that favors the literary dimension over the historical, Allen posits himself carefully between two famous approaches, Intertextuality Intertextuality is the shaping of texts' meanings by other texts. It can refer to an author’s borrowing and transformation of a prior text or to a reader’s referencing of one text in reading another. and Reception Theory, which accentuate the importance of rediscovery of the relationship to tradition and the reader's societal function. To that end, he applauds the scholarship of such pioneers as Goldziher, Nicholson, Gibb, Blachere, Huart, Brockelmann, and Nallino, among others, who helped bring Arabic literary texts to the attention of the western reader, and whose works clearly delineated the significant role that literature has consistently played in Arab society.
Despite the valiant efforts of these and other like-minded scholars, serious gaps have persisted in the West's understanding and knowledge of Arabic and Islamic studies
The Arabic Literary Heritage is divided into seven chapters. In addition to an opening essay, titled "On Precedents and Principles," and another chapter dealing with the various contexts of the literary tradition (i.e., the physical, linguistic, historical, intellectual), the next four chapters, which comprise the core of the book, examine the major components of the Arabic literary tradition, the Quran, poetry, belletristic bel·let·rist
A writer of belles-lettres.
bel prose and narrative, and drama.
In the third chapter, "The Quran: Sacred Text and Cultural Yardstick," the author acknowledges the central role played by the Quran in almost every aspect of the development of Arabic language Arabic language
Ancient Semitic language whose dialects are spoken throughout the Middle East and North Africa. Though Arabic words and proper names are found in Aramaic inscriptions, abundant documentation of the language begins only with the rise of Islam, whose main texts and literature and gives it prominence as "divinely inspired, as linguistic yardstick, and as motivation for the need to record pre-Islamic poetic tradition Poetic tradition is a concept similar to that of the poetic or literary canon (a body of works of significant literary merit, instrumental in shaping Western culture and modes of thought). in written form." He considers such important elements as the structure of the text, its language and imagery, the pivotal role of sound, and its immense influence on Arabic writings in general. It is the next chapter on poetry, however, that captures the lion's share of the book, extending approximately over one-fourth of the whole book. Not only is this Allen's longest and most detailed chapter, it is also his most vivid and energetic, particularly the final section dealing with the modern era of Arabic poetry Arabic poetry (Arabic,الِشعر العربي) is the earliest work of Arabic literature. It is composed and written down in the Arabic language either by Arab people or non-Arabs. . Prefacing this chapter by asserting that Arabic poetry has always been regarded as diwan al-Arab (the register of the Arabs), the author proceeds to illust rate some of the essential structural and stylistic ingredients of Arabic poetry, such as rhyme and meter, qasida (poem) and its antecedent ANTECEDENT. Something that goes before. In the construction of laws, agreements, and the like, reference is always to be made to the last antecedent; ad proximun antecedens fiat relatio. qitca (short poem), sajc and rajz (both early poetic formations), and zajal (a strophic stro·phic
1. Relating to or consisting of strophes.
2. Music Having the same melody used for each strophe. poem which includes non-literary Arabic in its formation); he also expounds the varied thematic types featured in classical and modern Arabic Modern Arabic may refer to:
Eulogistic oration or laudatory discourse. The panegyric originally was a speech delivered at an ancient Greek general assembly (panegyris), such as the Olympic and Panathenaic festivals. ), hija' (lampoon), ritha' (elegy elegy, in Greek and Roman poetry, a poem written in elegiac verse (i.e., couplets consisting of a hexameter line followed by a pentameter line). The form dates back to 7th cent. B.C. in Greece and poets such as Archilochus, Mimnermus, and Tytraeus. ), and wasf (description).
The next two chapters, although considerably shorter than the one on poetry, are no less compelling, however. Chapter Five, on belletristic prose and narrative, surveys the earliest texts in Arabic prose and effectively traces the development and varieties of adab (literature), culminating in the present and future of modem Arabic fiction. Chapter Six sketches the beginning of Arabic drama as a literary genre and pays special attention to the achievements of the Egyptian writer Tawfiq al-Hakim and the works of a generation of his young fellow compatriots after the 1952 revolution; then the chapter closes with a portrait of recent dramatic trends elsewhere in the Arab world: Syria, Lebanon, Palestine, the Maghreb -- Tunisia, Algeria, Morocco--and Iraq and the Gulf states.
Finally, Chapter Seven is devoted to the Arabic critical tradition, ranging from early compilations of critical opinion to recent contacts with the West and the literary aftermath of Arab independence. It examines the tradition of literary criticism that has evolved and marched alongside the literary canon as long as Arabic literary output has been in existence. In his consideration of the modern period of Arabic literary criticism, Allen generously, if deservedly, traces the accomplishments of Taha Hussein and the various significant contributions which the illustrious Egyptian writer has made to the field.
The Arabic Literary Heritage is remarkably unencumbered by the attachment of footnotes to the end of each chapter or at the bottom of each page; instead, each quote is duly and conveniently acknowledged (with citations of author, title, and page number) within parentheses See parenthesis.
parentheses - See left parenthesis, right parenthesis. that immediately follow each respective quote. A Guide to Further Reading at the end of the book also proves very useful and puts into perspective the vast literary context in which this outstanding effort was launched. Another attractive feature of this work is an opening comparative chronological chart spanning the duration of 400 AD-the present, displayed on twenty-four successive pages, and outlining carefully selected historical and literary landmarks in the West vis-a-vis their chronological equivalents in the Arab and Muslim worlds on the opposite page.
If there is a criticism to be made of this volume, it is the fact that the reader is left rather yearning for a more elaborate consideration of the Arabic novel than the fairly brief section furnished in the text. As if by design, also the section on the Arabic short story Arabic Short Story
With the development of the printing press in the 19th century, the Arabic short story (Arabic القصة القصيرة) first appeared in 1870 in daily newspapers and weekly magazines, receives nearly half as many of the eleven pages allotted al·lot
tr.v. al·lot·ted, al·lot·ting, al·lots
1. To parcel out; distribute or apportion: allotting land to homesteaders; allot blame.
2. to the Arabic novel. The reader can take solace, though, in the knowledge that there are already other sources which are certain to satisfy one's intellectual hankering in this regard, including Allen's own, The Arabic Novel: An Historical and Critical Introduction (2nd edition, Syracuse University Press Syracuse University Press, founded in 1943, is a university press that is part of Syracuse University. External link
At the outset, the author states his concern that in undertaking the difficult task of writing this book he runs the risk that what is left out will always exceed what is included by a large margin. If anything, Allen ought to be wholeheartedly whole·heart·ed
Marked by unconditional commitment, unstinting devotion, or unreserved enthusiasm: wholehearted approval.
whole congratulated on this significant addition to a field of study that remains woefully woe·ful also wo·ful
1. Affected by or full of woe; mournful.
2. Causing or involving woe.
3. Deplorably bad or wretched: in need of such an incisive and highly informed contribution. His volume will certainly stand as an important building block on the way to addressing a gaping and growing need in this field.
Khalil Barhoum is a Senior Lecturer in the Division of Literatures, Cultures, and Languages at Stanford University.