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Lara Harb
Princeton University (Princeton, NJ 08540-5228)
The Concept of Imitation in Classical Arabic Literature

A book-length study of the ways in which classical Arabic philosophers and writers understood the relation between literature and reality, focusing on their transformation of the Aristotelian concept “mimesis.”

Mimesis in Classical Arabic Literature promises to be the first comprehensive study of literary representation in medieval Arabic literature. In it I try to reconstruct medieval Arab conceptions of the relationship between a literary work and reality, on the one hand, and the psychology and ethics of how one experiences and is affected by such representations, on the other. Mimesis in the Arabic context seems to have been understood as comparison instead of the standard Western understanding of it as imitation. As a result, the aesthetic goal of representational arts in Arabic literature is not verisimilitude but similarity. This requires a different strategy of reading on the part of the one who experiences the text. In addition to deepening our understanding of classical Arabic representational literature, the project exposes an alternative understanding of a concept so central to Western Aesthetics.

Project fields:
Arabic Literature; Comparative Literature; Literary Criticism

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2017 – 6/30/2018