Cos, etc.: Additional Texts (Arabic): Classical Arabic set texts

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COS, etc.: Additional Texts (Arabic): Classical Arabic set texts (Joint degrees PAPER 2: Additional Arabic: literary texts. Selected classical and modern Arabic prose texts)

Classical: Professor Julia Bray, lectures; Dr Peter Hill, tutorials: TT 2017;

(Modern: Dr Robin Ostle, lectures and tutorials: MT 2017).

Classical: up to 16 hours of lectures, weekly 2 to 4 in The Oriental Institute, Room 113;

tutorials: number, time and place t.b.a.

The aim of the classical Arabic set texts is, firstly, to introduce students to some areas of intersection between medieval Arabic and Byzantine and near eastern Late Antique cultures, and, secondly, to familiarise them with some characteristics of medieval Arabic story-telling.

Students will be expected to supplement the reading in class of Arabic set passages (most of them also available in translation) with wider reading in translation. Required further reading will include a selection of books and articles that examine literary techniques, intellectual history and the production of meaning in medieval Arabic.
EXAMINATION (“Setting Conventions”)

The examination consists of two sections of equal weight, classical and modern. In each section, one Arabic passage from the set texts must be translated into English and commented on (25%), and one essay topic (25%) must be selected from a choice of three.

Guidelines for translation and commentary

In the classical section, you are asked to “Translate the passage into idiomatic English. Write brief notes on any points (contextual and cultural; linguistic and stylistic) that you think would help an unpractised reader better appreciate the passage.”


al-Jāḥiẓ (ca.776-868), Kitāb al-Bukhalāʾ (“The Book of Misers”), A. al-ʿAwāmirī and ʿA. al-Jārim (eds.), Beirut: Dār al-Kutub al-ʿIlmiyya 1991, p.46, l.2 - p.47, l.4: [airs, waters and places]: the effect of the local soil and water on the character of man and beast in Marw. (Two English and one French translation of the whole work are available: R. B. Serjeant, The Book of misers (Reading: Garnet, 1997): OIL: PJ7745 JAH.42; Jim Colville, Avarice and the avaricious (London: Kegan Paul, 1999): OIL: PJ7745 JAH.43; Charles Pellat, Le Livre des avares (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1952): OIL: PJ7745 JAH.39.)

al-Tanūkhī (939-994), al-Faraj baʿd al-shidda (“Deliverance follows Adversity”, ʿA. al-Shāljī (ed.), Beirut: Dār Ṣādir 1978, II, pp.191-205 (trs. in Marius Canard, “Les aventures d’un prisonnier arabe et d’un patrice byzantin à l’époque des guerres bulgaro-byzantines”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 1956, vol.9/10, pp.49-72; trs. G. J. H. van Gelder, Classical Arabic Literature. A Library of Arabic Literature Anthology, New York and London: NYU Press, 2013, pp.230-241; photocopies provided).

— , al-Faraj baʿd al-shidda, I, pp.335-337: the mercy shown by three Persian kings.

al-Thaʿlabī (d.1035), ʿArāʾis al-majālis fī qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ (“Tales of the Prophets”), Cairo n.d., pp.329-332: Alexander and the Water of Life (trs. and annotated William M. Brinner, ʿArāʾis al-majālis fī qiṣaṣ al-anbiyāʾ or “Lives of the Prophets” as recounted by Abū Isḥāq Aḥmad ibn Muḥammad ibn Ibrāhīm al-Thaʿlabī, Leiden; Boston; Köln: Brill 2002; pp.605-616: Alexander the Great (Dhū al-Qarnanyn); pp.616-621: “Dhu l-Qarnayn Enters Among the Shadows that Adjoin the North Pole, in Search of the Spring of Life”. This can be read online on SOLO, and another translation will also be supplied in photocopy.)
*If there is time, extra, non-examinable Classical Arabic texts will be read to provide you with more material for discussion, which you may use in your examination questions.*


Lists of further reading will be given during the course.

Before the course, you should read:

- Dimitri Gutas, Greek Thought, Arabic Culture. The Graeco-Arabic Translation Movement in Baghdad and Early ‘Abbasid Society (2nd-4th/8th-10th centuries) (London; New York: Routledge,1999 and reprs. This can be read online on SOLO and is also in OIL: DS36.82.G7.GUT 1998);

- one of the translations of al-Jāḥiẓ, The Book of misers, given above.

- an overview of Classical Arabic Literature that discusses but also takes you beyond the periods and perspectives covered in this paper, J. Bray, “Arabic literature” = chapter 4 of The New Cambridge History of Islam, vol. 4, ed. Robert Irwin: Islamic Cultures and Societies to the End of the Eighteenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2010), pp.383-413. This begins by briefly situating earlier Arabic literature in relation to Late Antiquity, and is posted on WebLearn at

under “BA Arabic Paper 4” in the file labelled “Formative cultures and identities”.

(The various folders and files at the WebLearn address contain a variety of articles that you may find relevant.)

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