Research and Publication
My first book, The Wine Song in Classical Arabic Poetry: Abu Nuwas and the literary tradition (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997) traces the development of the genre of wine poetry from pre-Islamic Arabia to its heyday in early 9th century Abbasid Iraq. Abu Nuwas is one of the five greatest poets of the Arabic tradition, and his wine poetry is far from obscure; it is a staple of any university course on pre-modern Arabic literature. It is indeed startling that a culture in which wine was religiously proscribed should have spawned the most developed "Bacchic" verse in world literature. To read and understand the wine poems is essential for a proper understanding of the cultural pluralism of early Islamic civilization. It also exposes the complexity of the poetic tradition, since the wine theme developed in tandem with the whole poetic corpus and there is a complex intertextuality subtending it, relating it in a varied dynamic with ascetic/pious poetry, erotic poetry, invective poetry and the more formal panegyric poetry of the court. And there is of course a more universal humanistic aspect to this poetry which renders it fascinating to any student of literature. The Wine Song attempts to uncover and explore the complexity of some of Abu Nuwas greatest poems.
I am currently completing a book-length manuscript, entitled Islamic Recognitions: Anagnorisis in Arabic Narrative Literatur. This is a typological study of narrative epistemology concentrating on the medieval period, and focusing on the important way that anagnorisis/recognition provides narratives with both structure and theme; emerging as the latter (theme) recognition furnishes an important semiotic and hermeneutic tool for interpreting narratives across distinct genres. After a theoretical Introduction this study contains seven chapters: 1) Anagnorisis in the Qur'an and the Life of Muhammad; 2) Joseph as Figure of Disclosure and Avatar of Romance; 3) Synecdoche and Metonymy in early Isma`ili Memoirs; 4) The Arabian Nights -- Part 1: the Fall of the Barmakids and the Cycle of the Two Viziers (recognition and the disclosure of truth in historiography and fiction); 5) The Arabian Nights -- Part 2: Recognition and the Reader; 6) Unmasking Deceit: the picaresque Maqama; 7) "L'Image Juste: Juste un Image": on modern Arabic drama and the novel.
Anagnorisis has been an essential figure in Western poetics. Arabic literature itself does not have an indigenous narrative poetics, therefore the perspective of this study provides a novel point of comparison between Arabic and Western literature. The study is driven by a theoretical paradigm, but provides close in depth readings of a variety of texts, including the modern Arabic novel. The book will be published by Routledge/Curzon Press in the series Studies in Arabic and Middle Eastern Literatures.