POETICS OF MODERNITY IN 19TH CENTURY ARABIC MAQAMAS
Poetics of Modernity in 19th Century Arabic Maqamas studies mobility and intellectual exchange the in 19th century Arabic maqama, an Arabic classical narrative genre that originated in 11th century Baghdad. Focusing on the Arab Renaissance, also known as Nahda, the study argues that the maqama form provided 19th century Arab authors a creative space to negotiate questions on identity, language, community, and authority to articulate multiple modernities: anthropocentric, nesologic, and mimetic. The study examines the maqamas of three major literary figures: Ahmad Faris al-Shidyaq (d. 1887) and Nasif al-Yaziji (d. 1871) from the Levant and Rifaʿa al-Tahtawi (d. 1873) from Egypt. Examining the modern maqama vis-à-vis its classical form, the study traces the changes in the maqama over time, therefore illustrating how form carries its own historical content. It argues that al-Shidyaq’s maqama in his 1850 al-Saq ʿala al-saq (Leg over Leg) symptomizes an anthropocentric modernity: a modernity that questions the metaphysical foundation of language and meaning. Chapter two, examines al-Tahtawi’s 1850 Arabic translation of François Fénelon’s 1699 epic novel, Les aventures de Télémaque. Rendered in rhymed prose that is reminiscent of the maqama style, al-Tahtawi’s translation articulates a nesologic modernity, where geography and poetics intersect. The study argues that both the original French work and the maqama are implicated in the discursive production of the “island” form, both aesthetically and politically. In effect, the poetic meeting of both works through al-Tahtawi’s translation reflects Egypt’s self-conceptualization as a sovereign state dominating the Sudan. al-Yaziji’s 1856 maqama collection, Majmaʿ al-bahrayn (“Meeting of Two Seas”), by contrast, portrays modernity as being motivated by mimesis and repetition. Examining two of al-Yaziji’s maqamas, tellingly set in the Arabian Peninsula, the study traces al-Yaziji’s poetic creation of sameness, suggested obliquely by a contraction of distance, that is in return philosophically made possible through the maqama’s use of hearing and listening in the desert.
al-Shidyaq; al-Tahtawi; al-Yaziji; Arab Modernity; Nahda
Toorawa, Shawkat; Brann, Ross
Near Eastern Studies
Ph. D., Near Eastern Studies
Doctor of Philosophy
dissertation or thesis