New Publication on Narratology in Arabic Historiography

Finally, Mamluk Studies 15: “Mamluk Historiography Revisited – Narratological Perspectives” is out. The edited volume brings together twelve articles on perspectives on specific works or larger clusters of works. My own contribution, “The Changing Legacy of a Sufi Shaykh: Narrative Constructions in Diaries, Chronicles, and Biographies (15th–17th Centuries)”, investigates the development of how knowledge on one specific person was shaped and adapted with growing temporal distance.

The person in question was introduced here in several posts during February 2018: Mubārak al-Qābūnī al-Ḥabashī. The article adds a more cohesive analytical framework to the sources presented on the blog before, and in in itself investigates the early formation of historical writing about his person. It presents and analyses four, mostly chronographical accounts on the same events and argues that each text does generate different meanings from these events.

The methodology is predominantly adapted from Gerard Genette and centers around the notion of “narrative time”, and its three emanations of temporal order, duration, and frequency. The article demonstrates how their application serves in the four accounts by Ibn Ṭawq, In al-Ḥimṣī, and—twice—Ibn Ṭūlūn to create quite divergent narratives out of the same events.

Finally, it complements the sources on Mubārak already presented here and adds accounts from three chronicles on the great clash between Mubārak and the local Mamluk emirs. Through different narrative treatment and contextualization, the retelling of the same event comes to represent divergent motivations of those texts.

Medieval Damascus: Was there no garbage problem ever?

Insides of a medieval German latrine

Reading two articles on Medium, one about rat kings and another about an early car named by its creator Horsey Horseless and which featured “a life-size replica of a horse head, down to the shoulders, and attaching it to the front of a carriage“, I got into thinking. I have to add here that I am no specialist in this field.

More specifically, together these articles made me wonder what did Medieval Damascenes do with their garbage and how did they avoid to have recurrent garbage crises? Obviously, they did not have to worry about plastic piles but the garbage they did have to worry about was still of a rather smelly nature. As the exhibit from the Frankfurt historical museum shows, there was a lot of other waste as well. Continue reading Medieval Damascus: Was there no garbage problem ever?

Teaching ḥadīth: Ibn Ṭūlūn and the Thulāthiyyāt genre

This week I return to Garret Davidson’s dissertation on post-canonical ḥadīth transmission. Davidson offers a wonderful overview of the genres involved in establishing elevated, i.e. short, chains of transmission and the status that these brought for people who had access to them. While these genres could amount to very different scopes and sizes, it is safe to say that in this context small-scale hadith collections occupied a central position. These often would include the most elevated and thus sought-after chains a well-aged transmitter had to offer to the following generations, and at minimal time to be afforded. This impetus became pervasive in other fields of knowledge as well, at least for a lay audience. Continue reading Teaching ḥadīth: Ibn Ṭūlūn and the Thulāthiyyāt genre

Mubārak al-Qābūnī al-Ḥabashī, part 2

It is still Black History Month in the US. Last week, I introduced Mubārak al-Qābūnī al-Ḥabashī and presented the first (actually, chronologically the last) biography he received from a local Damascene author. Also, I want to point to this article which outlines some of the benefits of Black History Month.

Today, we continue with another one, which was written several decades before al-Ghazzī’s:

  • Ibn al-ʿImād, ʿAbd al-Ḥaiy Ibn Aḥmad. Shadharāt al-dhahab fī akhbār man dhahab. [Nachdr. d. Ausg. Kairo 1931-32] ed. 10 vols. Beirut: Dār Iḥyāʾ al-Turāth al-ʿArabī, 1982, vol. 8, pp. 259-260.

Continue reading Mubārak al-Qābūnī al-Ḥabashī, part 2