EUME Berliner Seminar
Mi 12 Jun 2024 | 17:00–18:30

Mimesis in Classical Arabic Literature

Lara Harb (CNMS-EUME Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation 2023/24 / Princeton University), Chair: Beatrice Gründler (Freie Universität Berlin)

Forum Transregionale Studien, Wallotstr. 14, 14193 Berlin

This talk will consider the place of mimesis in classical Arabic anecdotal literature. I argue that the kinds of stories that were described as “adab” (edifying literature) in classical Arabic sources had an analogical relationship with reality rather than a strictly representational one. Based on statements made by adab authors about their strategies of storytelling, this talk will explore the consequences of such an analogical view of narrative on the way stories were written and read. I will touch on questions of fictionality, the length and structure of stories, and the representation of characters within them. Through this I hope to provide new tools to approach classical Arabic anecdotal literature—ones that expose the artistry of comparison rather than representation.

Lara Harb is Associate Professor of Near Eastern Studies at Princeton University. She specializes in Classical Arabic Literature and her research focuses on classical Arabic literary criticism and theory.  She is the author of Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2020). Her second book project is on the concept of mimesis in Classical Arabic Literature, for which she has been awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities grant and a Humboldt Fellowship. She is the section editor of Classical Arabic Literature and Language for the Encyclopedia of Islam, 3rd edition (Brill). She is on the editorial board of the Library of Arabic Literature (NYU Press) and a forthcoming series called Sources in Early Poetics: Literary Criticism from Antiquity to the Enlightenment (Brill). She has been spending a sabbatical this academic year (2023-4) at the University of Marburg and as a fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin.

Beatrice Gruendler is Professor of Arabic at the Freie Universität Berlin. She received her PhD from Harvard University and was previously a professor at Yale University. Her areas of research include Arabic codicology, the history of the Arabic language, classical Arabic poetry and its social context, early Arabic book-culture viewed within the history of media, and the role of classical Arabic literature at the crossroads of premodern global literature. She is the author of The Development of the Arabic Scripts: From the Nabatean Era to the First Islamic Century (1993, Arabic trans. 2004), Medieval Arabic Praise Poetry: Ibn al-Rūmī and the Patron’s Redemption (2003), and The Life and Times of Abū Tammām (Akhbār Abī Tammām) by Abū Bakr Muhammad ibn Yaḥyā al-Ṣūlī (2015), and The Rise of the Arabic Book (2020).


Please note that the Berliner Seminar will take place on-site at the Forum Transregionale Studien. We kindly ask for prior registration via eume(at) Depending on approval by the speaker(s), the Berliner Seminar will be recorded. All audio recordings of the Berliner Seminar are available on SoundCloud.

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