Seventeenth-Century Poetic Aesthetics: Ibn Maʿṣūm Al-Madanī’s Sulāfat Al-ʿaṣr on Contemporary Poets
Stetkevych, Suzanne S.S
The 11th/17th-century Hijazi scholar Ibn Maʿṣūm al-Madanī (d. 1120/1709) wrote a significant later post-classical/pre-modern biographical anthology, Sulāfat al-ʿaṣr fī maḥāsin al-shuʿarāʾ bi-kulli miṣr (Pressing of the Wine Grapes on the Excellence of Poets from Every Region). Written in India presumably while Ibn Maʿṣūm was under house arrest, the Sulāfa, along with another 11th/17th-century biographical anthology by Muḥammad Faḍl Allāh al-Muḥibbī (d. 1111/1699) followed a slightly earlier work by Shihāb al-Dīn al-Khafājī (d. 1069/1659). All three authors claim that what they have preserved of literary examples also compete with—if not surpass—their ancestors' literature. By taking the Sulāfa as an example, I argue that besides its merit of preserving a significant amount of prose and poetry in the 11th/17th century and defending contemporary literature, the work provides a set of poetic aesthetics that corresponds to what forms an excellent literary example. More importantly, I attempt to tackle the question of why it is crucial to read pre-modern/post-classical literature by those who recorded it, especially regarding their view of terms such as ‘literary eloquence’ and ‘creativity’ rather than relying on our own modern literary taste.
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