How Do You Say “Epigram” in Arabic?: Literary History at the Limits of Comparison


The qaṣīdah and the qiṭʿah are well known to scholars of classical Arabic literature, but the maqṭūʿ, a form of poetry that emerged in the thirteenth century and soon became ubiquitous, is as obscure today as it was once popular. These poems circulated across the Arabo-Islamic world for some six centuries in speech, letters, inscriptions, and, above all, anthologies. Drawing on more than a hundred unpublished and published works, How Do You Say “Epigram” in Arabic? is the first study of this highly popular and adaptable genre of Arabic poetry. By addressing this lacuna, the book models an alternative comparative literature, one in which the history of Arabic poetry has as much to tell us about epigrams as does Greek.

Prices from (excl. shipping):

Add to Cart
Adam Talib, DPhil (2014) Oxford, teaches Arabic language and literature at Durham University and is an assistant editor of the Journal of Arabic Literature. Before joining Durham, he taught at the American University in Cairo from 2012–2017.
"... a major contribution to the history of pre-modern Arabic literature." - Hakan Özkan, in: Mamluk Studies Review, Vol. 21, 2018.

"... Adam Talib's monograph is a useful preliminary tool for experienced scholars and young researchers alike." - Luca Rizzo, Università Ca' Foscari, Venezia & Westfälische Wilhelms-Universität Münster, in: Quaderni di Studi Arabi 13 (2018)

"... his careful and thoughtful treatment of the subject of genre sets future research on the right path" - Lara Harb, Princeton University, in: Journal of Arabic Literature 50 (2019)

“The work under review is a relevant example of both these scholarly achievements and the persistence of biased narrowness, for it does not only venture into a still largely unexplored chronology, but also into the terra incognita of a hitherto overlooked genre: the short poems (maqāṭīʿ) conventionally called epigrams. […] The main objective of Talib’s ground-breaking study is to claim the maqāṭīʿ as a genre of their own. This is undoubtedly achieved, and this work will become a compulsory reference for researchers of Arabic literature. Despite its complexity, this will be also a very useful text for BA students, who can profit from Talib’s editions, translations and close reading of the poems. Scholars interested in postcolonial studies and comparative literature will find insightful discussions and enjoy Talib’s aporetic disquisitions.” - Ignacio Sánchez, University of Warwick in: Orientalistische Literaturzeitung Volume 115, Issue 4-5 (2020).
Note to Readers
List of Abbreviations

Preamble: Growth and Graft

On Wholeness

1 A Bounding Line
2 The Sum of its Parts

Arabic Poetry, Greek Terminology

Preliminary Remarks
3 Epigrams in the World
4 Hegemonic Presumptions and Atomic Fallout
5 Epigrams in Parallax

Annotated Bibliography of Unpublished Sources
All interested in the history of Arabic poetry. Scholars and students of comparative and world literature, epigram, lyric poetry, and genre.
  • Collapse
  • Expand