Montgomery, James E.
A reconsideration of some Jāhilī poetic paradigms.
PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.
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The J=ahil=i poets esteemed verity as opposed to verisimilitude as their principal aesthetic criterion. I have long been convinced of this. This thesis represents an attempt to enucleate several features of their verse by drawing on various spheres of knowledge, acquaintance with which is fundamental to a proper appreciation of the pre-Islamic qad s=idah as poetry. My concern has been with matters zoological, philological, literary and socio-historical.
It is a critical shibboleth (both occidental and oriental) that the ancients Arabs were unlettered; yet writing looms large in their verse. It is a modern datum that J=ahil=i verse is oral poetry; yet this is not the only explantion for the recurrence of conventional phraseology and expression. Chapter One is a preliminary incursus into an investigation of writing among the early Arabs. It is also a study of the literary development of a nexus of topical comparisons, viz. the deserted encampment. A socio-historical interpretation of the shift in emphasis perceptible in these comparisons is offered, conjoined with the suggestion that the phenomenon of the `Bedouin' is an incremental paradigm, the presence of which is less distinct in early J=ahil=i verse than has been supposed. Extended similes in which a camel is compared with an oryx bull or doe or a wild ass have tended to be neglected by scholars, who rely on an, at times but poorly formed, subjective impression, referring to the stylized or mannered nature of the tableaux. I have tried to demonstrate that, although in their several features narrative consuetude is discernible, a proper understanding of the vignettes depends largely on the given poetic context. The ethology and ecology of the ass and the oryx have been studied in order to shed light on their poetical manifestations: verse has proved to be consistent with science. Chapter 4 sets forth a comparison of the parodical style of Arkhilokhos of Paros and al-N=abighah of the tribe of Dhuby=an, to which an instance of parody from the Middle English alliterative tradition has been appended.
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