Malcolm H. Kerr Dissertation Awards

Shuaib Ally

University of Toronto, Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations

2022 Honorable Mention (Humanities)

Shuaib Ally

Shuaib Ally

“Anxieties over the Loss of the Classics: Tracing Islamic Intellectual History through the Manuscripts of ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī’s Dalāʾil and Asrār”

The first major monograph to build an intellectual history from Islamic manuscript paratexts, Shuaib Ally’s systematic investigation of Quran commentary (tafsīr) and Arabic rhetoric (balāgha) on the basis of two medieval classics is groundbreaking in method and sweeping in scope. He tackles extremely paleographically and technically challenging material traces with precision and aplomb, and rewrites the history of these two disciplines from the eleventh century to the seventeenth. Both are projects difficult enough in their own right; yet Ally’s laserlike focus on “mere” marginalia and supercommentaries allows for a total revision of “postclassical” Islamic intellectual history more broadly. Showing innovative, creative and subversive redeployments of the classics to be the engine of Islamic early modernity to at least the same degree it was of Christian, this is a signal contribution to intellectual history, literary history, book history and manuscript studies, as well as the comparative study of early modernities.


The dissertation was completed at the University of Toronto in the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations under the supervision of Walid Saleh.

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