Arabic Poetry and Criticism
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- Unit value:
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- Full Year
The course takes the form of a guided inquiry into the history and genres of classical Arabic poetry, the emergence of modern poetry and the transformation of poetic language, structures and imagery as embodied in selected texts by leading poets. It is intended primarily for students taking MA Arabic Literature, but students of Comparative Literature will find it particularly interesting for the study of poetry and its response to the shaping forces of the age in a comparative context. The course has an important comparative constituent because of the historical influence of Arabic poetic practices and genres on world poetry (e.g. Troubadour poetry, German Gazell and Muslim Indian devotional poetry) and to the continued presence and influence of primarily Western (but also Asian and African) poetic traditions on modern Arabic poetic experiments.
Objectives and learning outcomes of the course
At the end of the course the student will be familiar in general terms with the range of themes, techniques and genres to be found in Classical, Modern and Contemporary Arabic poetry and will have been introduced to the principal critical works on the subject.
The objective of the course is to introduce students to one of the richest and most rewarding areas of Arabic literature, and to relate the processes of change and search for personal and cultural identity on the literary level to the projects of change in the political and social spheres.
The ultimate aim is to sharpen students’ awareness of the significance of poetry to the understanding of vital cultural, social and political processes in Arab societies. This aim can only be achieved, however, by attending first to the peculiarities of poetic voice, technique and metrical systems and to the closely allied complexities of self-insight and self-presentation, as well as to the relation to history and tradition. Students are expected to be able to apply a range of critical theories to the literature in question and to demonstrate this in their course-work essays.
WorkloadThis course is taught over 22 weeks with 2 hours classroom contact per week.
Scope and syllabus
Course readings and discussions will be guided by the following major themes:
- Language, Poetry and Identity: Pre-Islamic Poetry
- Conceptions of the Role of the Poet
- Language Practices: Disentangling Poetry and Prose
- Expansions and Transitions: Early Islamic and Umayyad Poetry
- The Criticism of Poetry and Arabic Literary Criticism
- The Golden age of Experimentation: The Tenth-Century
- Nature and Dimension of the Experience of Modernity and its relation to the romantic consciousness and imagination (and romanticism) and to the traditional mind-set (and neo-classicism).
- Crucial Relation to and Understanding of Time, Tradition, the City, Love and Society.
- Question of Influence and the Revivalist Attempts: the nature and extent of Western (e.g., Whitman, T. S. Eliot, Baudelaire, Mallarmé) and Eastern (e.g., Tagore) influence on modern Arabic poetry and the concomitant attempts at reviving certain Arabic poetic genres.
- Questions of Dramatic and Narrative Forms and of the Prose Poem
- Question of 'Amiyya Poetry and the Appropriation of Other Speech Genres
- Proper Definition of Terms, Practices and Forms and the Question of Historical Development
Essays are based on supplementary texts which may be read in English translation, and are expected to take account of relevant critical literature.
Students are also introduced to key concepts of poetics and literary theory and will receive training in applying a variety of critical paradigms to their material.
Method of assessmentOne three-hour essay type written examination in May-June (60%); one essay of 4,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 2 (20%); one essay of 4,000 words to be submitted on day 5, week 1, term 3 (20%).
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