Al-Musawi argues that the massive cultural production of the period was not a random enterprise: instead, it arose due to an emerging and growing body of readers across Islamic lands who needed compendiums, lexicons, and commentaries to engage with scholars and writers. Scholars, too, developed their own networks to respond to each other and to their readers. Rather than addressing only the elite, this culture industry supported a common readership that enlarged the creative space and audience for prose and poetry in standard and colloquial Arabic. Works by craftsmen, artisans, and women appeared side by side with those by distinguished scholars and poets.
Through careful exploration of these networks, The Medieval Islamic Republic of Letters makes use of relevant theoretical frameworks to situate this culture in the ongoing discussion of non-Islamic and European efforts. Thorough, theoretically rigorous, and nuanced, al-Musawi's book is an original contribution to a range of fields in Arabic and Islamic cultural history of the twelfth to eighteenth centuries.
Muhsin J. al-Musawi is professor+AH2099:AH2129 of Arabic and comparative studies at Columbia University.
Written by a number of authors over a stretch of centuries, The Thousand and One Nights depicts a burgeoning, urban Islamic culture in all its variety and complexity. As al-Musawi demonstrates, the tales document their own places and periods of production, reflecting the Islamic individual's growing exposure to a number of entertainments and temptations and their conflict with the obligations of faith. Aimed at a diverse audience, these stories follow a narrative arc that begins with corruption and ends with redemption, conforming to a paradigm that concurs with the sociological and religious concerns of Islam and the Islamic state. By emphasizing Islam in his analysis of these entertaining and instructional tales, al-Musawi not only illuminates the work's consistent equation between art and life, but he also sheds light on its underlying narrative power. His study offers a brilliant portrait of medieval Islam as well, especially its social, political, and economic institutions and its unique practices of storytelling.
Al-Musawi also explores in context issues that have been cursorily noticed or neglected, like Shi’i poetics, Sufism, women’s poetry, and expressions of exilic consciousness.
Arabic Poetry employs current literary theory and provides comprehensive coverage of modern and post-modern poetry from the 1950s onwards, making it essential reading for those with interests in Arabic culture and literature and Middle East studies.
This revised and updated edition provides sympathetic descriptions of the various traditions, explaining how they work “from the inside,” which is a big reason why this cherished classic has sold more than two million copies since it first appeared in 1958.