Time and the literary: the immediacy of information technology has supposedly annihilated both. Email, cell phones, satellite broadcasting seem to have ended the long-standing tradition of encoding our experience of time through writing. Paul de Man’s seminal essay “Literary History and Literary Modernity” and newly commissioned essays on everything from the human genome to grammatical tenses argue, however that the literary constantly reconstructs our understanding of time. From eleventh-century France or a science-fiction future, Time and the Literary shows how these two concepts have been and will continue to influence each other.
The three volumes of Essays in Arabic Literary Biography contain entries by leading specialists in the field of Arabic literature studies devoted to the major representatives of the literary heritage of Arabic culture within three specific periods: 950-1350 (ed. Terri DeYoung); 1350-1850 (ed. Joseph E. Lowry and Devin Stewart); and 1850-1950 (ed. Roger Allen). Each volume attempts to refl ect larger movements of cultural development and change within the realms of literary production and commentary during the given period. While the major names associated with each period are to be found, a particular effort has also been made to reflect the geographical diversity of the Arabic-speaking regions in the different historical periods involved. This volume contains biographical studies of thirty-eight Arabic literary fi gures who lived between 1350 and 1850, a neglected period of Arabic literary history. The essays situate the authors and their writings in local contexts of literary and cultural production, from Morocco to Iran, India and Indonesia, in many cases offering the fi rst comprehensive assessments of their lives and works. What emerges from the collection as a whole is a period characterized by institutional change, competition, conspicuous virtuosity, and diversity – when Christian and Shiite writers also played important roles. Although modern scholarship has seen these centuries as mired in cultural decadence and decline, the literary figures in this volume display astonishing inventiveness, both in their understanding and appropriation of the Arabic literary tradition as well as in their many formal innovations.