Reflecting Mirrors, East and West: Transcultural Comparisons of Advice Literature for Rulers (8th - 13th century)


In Reflecting Mirrors, East and West Enrico Boccaccini sheds new light on Mirrors for Princes, the pre-modern genre of advice literature for rulers. A popular genre in the societies that emerged from the Late Antique oecumene, Mirrors for Princes are considered here, for the first time, as a transcultural phenomenon that challenges the dichotomy of the Orient and the Occident. Traditionally, the historiographic tradition has viewed ‘European’ and ‘Middle Eastern’ Mirrors as distinct and incommensurable. Analyzing the contents and discourses in four Mirrors, ostensibly separated by space, time and language, Enrico Boccaccini convincingly draws out the surprising continuities between these texts, while also showing how they are embedded in their own historical, literary and political context.

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Enrico Boccaccini, Ph.D., is a visiting postdoctoral fellow at the Orient Institute Beirut (OIB). He received his Ph.D. in 2020 from the Department of Arabic and Islamic studies at the University of Göttingen.
Notes on Transliteration and Style

 1 Approaching Mirrors for Princes
 2 The Heritage of Late Antiquity
 3 Transculturalism
 4 Research Procedure

1 The Traditions
 1 The Two Histories of Mirrors for Princes
 2 Mirrors for Princes—A genre?
 3 Transcending the Historiographic Divide

2 The Texts
 1 Risāla to the Crown Prince
 2 De institutione regia
 3 Naṣīḥat al-mulūk
 4 Castigos e documentos para bien vivir

3 The Advice
 1 Traits of the Ideal Ruler
 2 Roles of the Ideal Ruler

4 The Advisors
 1 Constructing Advice
 2 Negotiating with Power

 1 The Transcultural Genre of Mirrors for Princes
 2 In the Mirror and Beyond

Students and specialists of Middle Eastern Studies and comparative and world literature, as well as members of the general public interested in literature and cultural studies.
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