The texts for this course will be materials in English translation. Introductory lectures will briefly describe the essential features of the Arabic language and the cultural and geographic area to which it gives expression. Readings and discussions will progress in chronological order from pre-Islamic to modern times. The odes of the poets of pre-Islamic Arabia and their roles in their society will be discussed. The fables of Bidpai, translated from Persian by Ibn al-Muqaffa as the moralistic and didactic tales of Kalila and Dimna, will be seen to mark the introduction of prose in Arabic. The Qur'an and the biographical literature relating to the life and personality of the Prophet Muhammad will be examined in detail.
Excerpts from both the poetry and the prose of the classical period, including reference to the early Arab geographers and scientists, will illustrate the intellectual vitality and values of Arab-Islamic civilization. The Arabian Nights, although introduced into popular Arabic culture towards the end of the Baghdad caliphate from eastern origins, will be seen to exemplify many aspects of Arabic culture over extended periods of time and diversity of location. The contact and clash between Arab and Western cultures since the early 19th century will be seen to have given rise to new forms of literary expression in contemporary Arabic literature.
Regular class attendance and participation in discussions. Presentations of essays to the class. Six essays will be required. These will give evidence of close readings of the assigned texts and the use of supplementary materials.