Courts were the most important frameworks for the production, performance, and evaluation of literature in medieval Islamic civilization. Patrons vying for prestige attracted to their courts literary people who sought their financial support. The most successful courts assembled outstanding literary people from across the region.
The court of the vizier and literary person al-Sahib Ibn ʿAbbad (326-385/938-995) in western Iran is one of the most remarkable examples of a medieval Islamic court, with a sophisticated literary activity in Arabic (and, to a lesser extent, in Persian). Literature and the Islamic Court examines the literary activity at the court of al-Sahib and sheds light on its functional logic. It is an inquiry into the nature of a great medieval court, where various genres of poetry and prose were produced, performed, and evaluated regularly. Major aspects examined in the book are the patterns of patronage, selection, and auditioning; the cultural codes and norms governing performance, production, and criticism; the interaction between the patron and courtiers and among the courtiers themselves; competition; genres as productive molds; the hegemonic literary taste; and the courtly habitus. This book reveals the significance these courts held as institutions that were at the heart of literary production in Arabic.
Using primary medieval Arabic sources, this book offers a comprehensive analysis of Islamic courts and as such is of key interest to students and scholars of Arabic literature, Islamic history and medieval studies.
Table of Contents
Introduction 1 Al-Ṣāḥib: A Potentate and Patron 2 The Courtiers 3 The Literary Field of the Court: Representative Genres 4 The Hegemonic Taste in the Literary Field 5 Al-Tawḥīdī at Al-Ṣāḥib’s Court: What Went Wrong? Conclusion Appendix: Al-Rustamī’s Mansion Ode
Erez Naaman is Assistant Professor of Arabic at American University in Washington, DC. His research focuses on medieval Arabic literature and culture, and intellectual Islamic history.