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How Do You Say "Epigram" in Arabic?: Literary history at the limits of comparison (Leiden: Brill, 2017)

This monograph presents the history—the first in any language—of the Arabic epigram form (مقطوع). This form was extremely popular in the later half of pre-modern Arabic literary history (c. 1200–1900) and is all but unknown in today's scholarship. It is one of the most accessible and immediate literary forms in Arabic and was ubiquitous in all manner of literary texts from the period. Topics that these epigrams often treat range from amatory and erotic themes to descriptions of natural and luxury objects, jokes, and even riddles. The monograph presents the first sustained scholarly engagement with this genre and also examines the category of epigram in world literature and its application across literary traditions, especially Arabic and other Islamicate literary traditions like Persian, Hebrew, and Turkish. The study, therefore, offers a new history of classical Arabic literature while at the same time tackling important theoretical and critical issues in comparative literature. The title, How Do You Say "Epigram" in Arabic?, refers to the difficulty of translating cultural categories from one context to another (commensurability) and this is the larger question with which this study of a specific poetic genre in the Arabic tradition contends.

The Rude, the Bad, and the Bawdy: Essays in honour of Geert Jan van Gelder. Edited by Adam Talib, Marlé Hammond, and Arie Schippers (Cambridge: Gibb Memorial Trust, 2014)

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This volume collects eighteen essays on all facets of obscenity in classical and modern Arabic literature to celebrate the career of one of the most important living Arabists, the newly emeritus Laudian Professor of Arabic Geert Jan van Gelder, FBA. My own contribution to the volume is entitled "Caricature and obscenity in mujūn poetry and African-American women's hip-hop" In it, I compare modes of caricatured obscenity in classical Arabic mujūn poetry and African-American women's hip-hop to arrive at a compelling analysis, which suggests that both genres are ultimately oriented to be parodic and camp.

 

Arabic literature, 1200–1800: A New Orientation. Edited by Monica Balda-Tillier and Adam Talib. Special Issue of Annales Islamologiques (Volume 49, Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2016).

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