[P6340] Beyond Boundaries: The Convergence of Adab and Other Medieval Islamicate Genres

Created by Raha Rafii
Thursday, 12/02/21 11:30 am


How do Arabic and Persian works of adab literature—belles-lettres, morality tales, poetic collections—clarify and illuminate other genres of medieval writing, from jurisprudence to city histories to cosmological texts, and even to material culture? How can scholarly religious texts be approached as works at the intersections of multiple genres? Although adab literature has long been recognized as an important source of knowledge about medieval Islamicate societies in terms of worldviews, values, aesthetics, and even historical information, modern scholarship still analyzes certain medieval genres in isolation. These papers, whose sources range from the 10th to the 15th centuries CE, and from North Africa to Central Asia, argue for the necessity of using literary approaches and comparative analysis across genres in works that have not been typically analyzed outside of a single genre framework, such as works of jurisprudence, pilgrimage guides, and even visual culture and textiles.

The range of geographies and periods under discussion will demonstrate how specific types of adab literature--such as panegyrics, faḍāʾil works, and advice literature--were fundamental to understanding other genres within their wider Islamicate contexts. Not only do these papers demonstrate the necessity of considering multiple genre frameworks in undertaking a historical analysis of their sources, but they demonstrate how adab literature in particular illuminates aspects of authorial intention that would have been otherwise missed. This kind of analytical framework thus demonstrates how the modern categories that we impose on pre-modern or medieval literature act as artificially imposed borders on dynamic texts. As a result, modern scholars are able to better understand how medieval authors worked within their own understandings of genre, format, and audience, and how the confluence of these literary genres was mirrored in the way that religion was understood and made part of people's lives. An inter-generic approach to these sources thus provides a more nuanced reading of sources traditionally considered outside the adab framework while painting a clearer picture of the medieval societies in which these texts are embedded.


Lit; Lit; Lit; Lit; Lit; Lit; Lit; Lit; Art/Art Hist; Law; Lit; Rel Stds/Theo; Art/Art Hist; Law; Lit; Rel Stds/Theo; Art/Art Hist; Law; Lit; Rel Stds/Theo; Art/Art Hist; Law; Lit; Rel Stds/Theo



Daniel Sheffield

(Princeton University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Rubina Salikuddin

(Bryn Mawr College)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ali Asgar Alibhai

(The University of Texas at Dallas)
Ali Alibhai holds a PhD from the Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations department at Harvard University (November 2018). He is a scholar of the histories and cultures of Muslim societies and focuses his research on the medieval Islamic world, specifically...
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Raha Rafii

(University of Exeter)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Matthew Keegan

(Barnard College)
Matthew Keegan is a third-year PhD student in pre-modern Arabic literature and Islamic thought. His research focuses on the Maqāmāt of al-Ḥarīrī (d. 1122), which narrates the exploits of a trickster figure in ornate and artistic prose. While modern...
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;