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The Inimitable Qurʾān

Some Problems in English Translations of the Qurʾān with Reference to Rhetorical Features

Series:

Khalid Yahya Blankinship

In The Inimitable Qurʾān: Some Problems in English Translations of the Qurʾān with Reference to Rhetorical Features, Khalid Yahya Blankinship examines certain Arabic rhetorical features of the Qurʾān as represented in seven English translations. The author addresses the intersection of two important topics in Qurʾānic studies: the critique of the available English translations and the role of rhetoric in the interpretation of the Qurʾān. He identifies a number of figures characteristic of Qurʾanic style which represent some of the chief stumbling blocks for readers who are used to English in attempting to understand, interpret, and appreciate the text. The book should be useful to all those interested in rhetorical and translation studies and theory as well as Islamic studies.

The Mandate of Heaven

Strategy, Revolution, and the First European Translation of 'Sunzi’s Art of War' (1772)

Series:

Adam Parr

The Mandate of Heaven examines the first European version of Sunzi’s Art of War, which was translated from Chinese by Joseph Amiot, a French missionary in Beijing, and published in Paris in 1772. His work is presented in English for the first time. Amiot undertook this project following the suppression of the Society of Jesus in France with the aim of demonstrating the value of the China mission to the French government. He addressed his work to Henri Bertin, minister of state, beginning a thirty-year correspondence between the two men. Amiot framed his translation in order to promote a radical agenda using the Chinese doctrine of the “mandate of heaven.” This was picked up within the sinophile and radical circle of the physiocrats, who promoted China as a model for revolution in Europe. The work also arrived just as the concept of strategy was emerging in France. Thus Amiot’s Sunzi can be placed among seminal developments in European political and strategic thought on the eve of the revolutionary era.

Series:

Edited by Ovamir Anjum

This is an unabridged, annotated, translation of the great Damascene savant and saint Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s (d. 751/1350) Madārij al-Sālikīn. Conceived as a critical commentary on an earlier Sufi classic by the great Hanbalite scholar Abū Ismāʿīl of Herat, Madārij aims to rejuvenate Sufism’s Qur’anic foundations. The original work was a key text for the Sufi initiates, composed in terse, rhyming prose as a master’s instruction to the aspiring seeker on the path to God, in a journey of a hundred stations whose ultimate purpose was to be lost to one’s self ( fanā’) and subsist ( baqā’) in God. The translator, Ovamir (ʿUwaymir) Anjum, provides an extensive introduction and annotation to this English-Arabic face-to-face presentation of this masterpiece of Islamic psychology.

Edited by Ovamir Anjum

This is an unabridged, annotated, translation of the great Damascene savant and saint Ibn Qayyim al-Jawziyya’s (d. 751/1350) Madārij al-Sālikīn. Conceived as a critical commentary on an earlier Sufi classic by the great Hanbalite scholar Abū Ismāʿīl of Herat, Madārij aims to rejuvenate Sufism’s Qur’anic foundations. The original work was a key text for the Sufi initiates, composed in terse, rhyming prose as a master’s instruction to the aspiring seeker on the path to God, in a journey of a hundred stations whose ultimate purpose was to be lost to one’s self ( fanā’) and subsist ( baqā’) in God. The translator, Ovamir (ʿUwaymir) Anjum, provides an extensive introduction and annotation to this English-Arabic face-to-face presentation of this masterpiece of Islamic psychology.

Whirls of Faith and Fancy

House Symbolism and Sufism in Elif Shafak’s The Flea Palace

Verena Laschinger

Abstract

Elif Shafak’s The Flea Palace (2004) exposes secularized Istanbul as a grotesque world. By establishing the apartment building as a synecdoche for the city and negotiating the characters’ trajectories within the historical context of modernizing Istanbul, the novel presents their alienation as the sine qua non of the modern individual which is best confronted playfully or rather in the Sufi way. The argument is supported by the novel’s complex employment of circles and lines as thematic and formal patterns which refer to Islamic ritual practice of the Mevlevi Sufis in numerous ways.

African Cultural Festivals and World Literature

From the Map to the Territory

Claire Ducournau

Abstract

In an era where cultural festivals multiply, so-called African festivals have spread in Africa, but also outside of the continent, in major cities as well as in little-known villages, for example in provincial France. What are some of their implications and effects in the case of francophone African literature? These events privilege a continental representation of literature, which often reveals itself as problematic when confronted with the complex geographies of the texts and authors represented at these festivals. Using cross-disciplinary methodology, this critical inquiry reads different reallocations of this persistent African matrix through a typology and contemporary examples (Kossi Efoui’s writings, the “Étonnants Voyageurs” and “Plein sud” festivals). As an object of study, festivals bear witness to the necessity of expanding the toolbox of the (world) literary scholar by making use of documentary sources and adopting ethnographic approaches. It reveals a structural tension between an African map and various concrete territories, where local issues matter often more than this continental category, and can affect the form and content of literature itself.

The Literary World of the North African Taghrība

Novelization, Locatedness and World Literature

Karima Laachir

Abstract

The novels by North African novelists Waciny Laredj, Majid Toubia and Abdelrahim Lahbibi that refashioned the traditional Arabic genre of the taghrība inspired by the medieval epic of Taghrība of Banū Hilāl, still a living oral tradition in the region, offer an interesting case study of location in world literature. They circulate both within national (Algerian, Egyptian and Moroccan) literary systems and the pan-Arab literary field while maintaining a distinct aesthetic and political locality. In these novels, the literary life of the North African taghrība takes forms and meanings that are geographically and historically located, and that are shaped by the positionality of the authors. This paper intervenes in the discussion on location in world literature from the perspective of Arabic novelistic traditions by showing that the pan-Arabic literary field itself is far from homogenous but is marked by a diversity of narrative styles and techniques that can be both local/localised and transregional at the same time. Therefore, we need to shift our understanding of world literature beyond macro-models of “world-system” that assume a universally-shared set of literary values and tastes.

Locating the World in Metaphysical Poetry

The Bardification of Hafiz

Fatima Burney

Abstract

Discussions on world literature often imagine literary presence, movement, and exchange in terms of location and prioritize those literary traditions that can be easily mapped. In many regards, classical ghazal poetry resists such interpretation. Nonetheless, a number of nineteenth-century writers working in Urdu and English reframed classical ghazal poetry according to notions of locale that were particularly underpinned by ideas of natural essence, or genius. This article puts two such receptions of the classical ghazal in conversation with one another: the naičral shāʿirī (natural poetry) movement in North India, and the portrayal of classical Persian poet Hafiz as a figure of national genius in the scholarship of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Both these examples highlight the role that discourses of nature and natural expression played in nineteenth-century literary criticism, particularly with regard to conceptions of national culture. They also demonstrate how Persianate literary material that had long circulated in cosmopolitan ways could be vernacularized by rereading conventionalized tropes of mystical longing in terms of more worldly belonging.

Francesca Orsini and Laetitia Zecchini

On Islands and Deserts

Algerian Worlds

Tristan Leperlier

Abstract

This article argues for the necessity for world literature and postcolonial studies to examine both global hierarchies of literary legitimacy and those local practices which might challenge them, and give perspectives for other significant geographies. To do so, it focuses on the bilingual and transnational Algerian literary field; this requires different levels of interconnected analysis, namely of the two linguistic subfields, the intermediary level of national literary field and the two Francophone and Arabophone transnational literary fields. Trajectories and literary works of three very different yet linked writers, Rachid Boudjedra, Tahar Djaout and Tahar Ouettar, are examined in turn. The article traces both the global and linguistic inequalities to which they were subjected as well as their practices in order to argue that they reveal unexpected vectors of circulation between spaces and languages. Finally, this piece explores how and why each writer reinvents a world within their desert novels, that is, by narrating wanderings in the desert that are also explorations of national identity.