Prophets, Viziers and Philosophers: Wisdom and Authority in Early Arabic Literature
Prophets, viziers, and philosophers stand at the crossroads of civilizations. In world literature, they came to represent Judeo-Christian, Persian and Greek influences. As literary figures, they convey a sense of supranatural authority, elicited from their intimate experience of the divine, the mundane and the physical. Stemming from both orally transmitted material and some of the earliest foreign works to be translated into Arabic (the Bible; the Pañchatantra; the Alexander Romance), the three types of authoritative wisdom reveal a pivotal, civilizational moment in the development of Arabic literature from an oral tradition to a written one. By the middle of the eighth century CE, the unique fusion of Graeco-Roman political theology with Persian and Indian political traditions led to the renewal of questions already associated with authority in the Biblical and Byzantine traditions.The development of Arabic prose literature during the 8th-11th century CE captured, in a multiplicity of literary genres (legendary biographies, philosophical doxographies, mirrors for princes, collections of wise sayings and theological essays), a protean wisdom embedded in divine knowledge, practical discipline, scientific achievements and moral teachings.
The collection of essays assembled in this volume addresses the models of divine and practical wisdom in some of the earlier Arabic prose texts passed down to us. All essays were initially presented and discussed at an international conference held at the Freie Universität Berlin in October 2014. More than isolated case studies, the contributions offer ground-breaking new research on essential works and figures of the early translation movement (from Greek, Syriac and Middle-Persian into Arabic). They also address, from the viewpoints of intertextuality and philology, the dissemination process of innovative syntheses elaborated by original medieval thinkers.
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