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Maqamat of al-Hariri And the History of Maqamat

Maqamat of al-Hariri And the History of Maqamat

Date(s) - 06/14/2022
5:30 pm - 6:30 pm

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A Riddling Classic of Arabic Literature: Al-Hariri’s Maqamat

The Maqamat of al-Hariri is a collection of stories from the 12th century CE about a vagabond trickster who uses his riddles and eloquence to dupe and delight his audiences. Al-Hariri’s stories were written in ornately rhymed Arabic prose and were considered a classic for centuries. Scholars across the Islamic world studied the text intensively, wrote dozens of commentaries, and composed their own stories in emulation of al-Hariri. This talk explores the reception of the Maqamat through its commentaries. Why did this collection become so widely celebrated? And why did it fall rapidly out of favor in the 19th century when it came to be eclipsed in the canon by other texts? To answer these questions, this talk discusses the culture of reading, riddling, commentary, and interpretation that made the Maqamat a riddling classic.

Dr. Matthew L. Keegan is the Moinian Assistant Professor of Asian and Middle Eastern Cultures at Barnard College of Columbia University. His research focuses on the intersections of Islamic thought and Arabic literature, particularly in the commentary tradition around al-Hariri’s Maqamat. He has published articles on Islamic legal riddles, Quranic exegesis, Arabic manuscripts, and Crusader-era prose. He is currently working on a book about al-Hariri’s Maqamat and completing with Elias G. Saba an edition and translation of a 19th-century Arabic novella by Khalil al-Khouri entitled Oh No! I am Not European!

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