New Books Network

Lara Harb’s Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2020) is a delightful and formidable study on the details and...

Lara Harb’s Arabic Poetics: Aesthetic Experience in Classical Arabic Literature (Cambridge University Press, 2020) is a delightful and formidable study on the details and development of poetics and aesthetics in medieval Arabic literature. The central theme of this splendid book centers on the emergence of the evocation of wonder as a key aesthetic experience and criterion connected to the beauty and eloquence of speech in medieval Muslim intellectual thought. With breathtaking clarity and painstaking elaboration, Harb charts the key literary tropes, categories, and strategies, as well as the broader intellectual and theological stakes, such as the question of the Qur’an’s inimitability, invested in how poetry was imagined, experienced, and evaluated in this context. The strength of this book lies in the meticulous care with which it walks readers through a complex yet deeply fascinating discursive arcade of thinkers, texts, and poetic registers. While focused on the thought of the preeminent eleventh century scholar ‘Abd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī, Arabic Poetics presents and explores a panoply of scholars and texts situated at the intersection of religion, and literature. Written with sparkling clarity, this book will also make an excellent text to teach in various undergraduate and graduate courses on the Muslim Humanities, Arabic, Religion and Literature, and Religious Studies more broadly.


SherAli Tareen is Associate Professor of Religious Studies at Franklin and Marshall College. His research focuses on Muslim intellectual traditions and debates in early modern and modern South Asia. His book Defending Muhammad in Modernity (University of Notre Dame Press, 2020) received the American Institute of Pakistan Studies 2020 Book Prize. His other academic publications are available here. He can be reached at sherali.tareen@fandm.edu. Listener feedback is most welcome.