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By Dwight F. Reynolds

Autobiography is a literary style which Western scholarship has ascribed regularly to Europe and the West. Countering this evaluation and featuring many little-known texts, this finished paintings demonstrates the lifestyles of a flourishing culture in Arabic autobiography. studying the Self discusses approximately 100 Arabic autobiographical texts and offers 13 decisions in translation. The authors of those autobiographies symbolize an staggering number of geographical parts, occupations, and spiritual affiliations. This pioneering research explores the origins, historic improvement, and specified features of autobiography within the Arabic culture, drawing from texts written among the 9th and 19th centuries c.e. This quantity comprises components: a normal learn rethinking where of autobiography within the Arabic culture, and the translated texts. half one demonstrates that there are way more Arabic autobiographical texts than formerly famous via glossy students and indicates that those texts symbolize a longtime and--especially within the heart Ages--well-known type of literary creation. The 13 translated texts partly are drawn from the whole one-thousand-year interval lined via this survey and characterize a number of kinds. every one textual content is preceded via a quick advent guiding the reader to precise good points within the textual content and offering common heritage information regarding the writer. the amount additionally includes an annotated bibliography of a hundred thirty premodern Arabic autobiographical texts.In addition to providing a lot little-known fabric, this quantity revisits present understandings of autobiographical writing and is helping create a tremendous cross-cultural comparative framework for learning the style.

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Extra info for Interpreting the Self: Autobiography in the Arabic Literary Tradition

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Georges May, L'autobiographie (Paris: Presses Universitaires de France, 1979), 17–25. 5. Richard N. : Yale University Press, 1984), 40. 6. , Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (New York: Routledge, 1997). It succeeds, however, in delineating the historical development of this canon far more than in challenging it. 7. Georg Misch, Geschichte der Autobiographie, 4 vols. (Bern and Frankfurt: A. Francke and Gerhard Schultke-Bulmke, 1949–69); Franz Rosenthal, “Die arabische Autobiographie,” Studia Arabica 1 (1937): 1–40.

In comparison to the corpus of European autobiographical texts for many of the same periods, however, the Arabic corpus is a tradition of substance clearly worthy of further exploration. Its study seems particularly vital as its very existence calls into question many western assumptions about the representation of self, consciousness, personality, and identity. ― 31 ― A reading of the corpus used as the basis for this study, a far larger body of texts than previously assembled, leads to a number of initial conclusions: (1) Arabic autobiographies—defined as texts that present themselves as a description or summation of the author's life, or a major portion thereof, as viewed retrospectively from a particular point in time—are far more numerous than has been assumed, even though they constitute a minor genre when contrasted with the vast body of Arabic biographical and prosopographical writings; (2) premodern Arabic autobiographers reveal considerably more about their personal and “inner” lives in their texts than has been previously documented, but much of this information is made manifest only through careful, close reading of the texts and a thorough awareness of their social milieus and literary strategies; and (3) a general literary “autobiographical consciousness” became firmly established in the medieval Arabic literary tradition, an awareness that is articulated in passages of Arabic autobiographies that address various motivations for writing autobiographies, the works of earlier autobiographers, and the ethical and religious implications of writing autobiographies.

770) preserved in the recension of al-Shāfi‘ī (d. 820). The second is the sense of a “doctrinal position” or “stance,” a usage found from the early eighth century onward that is retained in the Omani Ibāī use of the term in reference to a “doctrinal treatise” (see Patricia Crone and Friedrich W. Zimmermann, The Epistle of Sālim B. Dhakwān [Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999]). 12. For a historical overview of this genre, see Dwight F. Reynolds, Heroic Poets, Poetic Heroes: The Ethnography of Performance in an Arabic Oral Epic Tradition (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1995), 5–9; see also, Peter Heath, The Thirsty Sword: Sīrat ‘Antar and the Arabic Popular Epic (Salt Lake City: University of Utah Press, 1996).

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