[P4733] Old Texts, New Methods: Innovative Methodologies for Medieval History

Created by Aaron Hagler
Saturday, 11/18/17 5:30pm


It is a commonly understood problem that, the odd newfound manuscript aside, those who conduct research based in the premodern Islamic textual tradition generally do not receive new material with which to engage. Western scholarship focused on questions of authenticity and historicity before some scholars turned to literary-analytical approaches that focused on how the past was represented, and how that representation of the past reflected the milieus and concerns of the writers and their societies. Other scholars focused (or focus) on literary networks, the genealogies of the texts, and the ideas contained therein, while still others are today exploring what digital analysis of the entire corpus can reveal to us. Where should the field go from here?

Seeking to explore, sometimes in an experimental fashion, what new approaches or analytical tools from other disciplines may reveal, this panel will discuss the impact diverse forms of literary and historiographical analysis can have on engaging with textual material. The first paper, “'This is what was related in the tash'?th': Muslim historians’ use(s) of Syriac hagiography" traces the appearance of Syriac hagiographical material in Islamic history writing, offering a nuanced understanding of its literary role beyond the generic and non-specific categories of "impact" and "influence." “Interpreting miracles in Muslim sacred texts” compares 10th C. CE Isma’ili interpretations of miraculous events to 20th C. C.E. modernist exegetical explanations, drawing thereby conclusions relating to the intellectual history of minorities in the Islamic tradition. “The theatrics of Islamic historiography: Getting into the heads of the historians” identifies the insights that may be gained by reading historical chronicles as performances of earlier versions of the same stories. “Narrating sultanship: the writing of sultanic biography as performance of social status” investigates the complex interplay between authorship and patronage in the act of narrating the life of a sultan, and points toward a literary, rather than legitimizing, goal. The panel's final paper, "Narrative strategies, state formation, and world-making in late medieval Egyptian chronicles," explores the light that may be shed on 9th/15th C. Cairo's political world-view through established historiographical methodologies.


Hist; Lit




Jo Van Steenbergen

(Universiteit Gent)
Jo Van Steenbergen (PhD KULeuven [Belgium], 2003) is research professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Ghent University (Belgium). He engages with the social and cultural history of the pre-modern Islamic world, with a particular focus on the Islamic...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Nancy Khalek

(Brown University)
Nancy Khalek is Associate Professor of Religious Studies and specializes in Late Antiquity and medieval Islam.
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Nebil Husayn

(University of Miami)
Nebil Ahmed Husayn received his BA in Middle Eastern studies from the University of Virginia, with a concentration in Arabic, Persian and early Islamic history. A Fulbright fellowship from 2004-2006 provided an opportunity to complete research in Syria,...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Aaron Hagler

(Troy University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Reyhan Durmaz

(Brown University)
Reyhan Durmaz is a PhD candidate at the Department of Religious Studies at Brown University. She works on late antique Christianity and early Islamic history, with a focus on Christian and Islamic saints and hagiographical traditions.
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Gowaart Van Den Bossche

(Ghent University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;