Islamicate Theories of Metaphor and the Literal
- Lara Harb (Dartmouth College), Jeannie Miller (University of Toronto)
A basic distinction between literal and non-literal (haqiqa and majaz) manners of speech undergirds premodern Islamicate language theories. These theories include not only exegesis and legal theory, but also grammar, rhetoric, and aesthetics. This critical tradition devoted much thought to determining the relationship between signifier and signified – or between utterance and meaning – and to examining the variety of ways in which expression can be non-literal. We seek to explore this topic, which we are roughly subsuming under the idea of “metaphor”, not only as it plays out in medieval Arabic literary theory, but also in related traditions, including Persian, Hebrew, Urdu, and Turkish.
Questions we would like to address include:
- How have metaphor and the literal been theorized? What are the parameters of the debates?
- How have these ideas been applied in various situations over time?
- Can the concept of metaphor be related to a conception of “the literary”?
- How do terms like “majaz” compare to the range and significance of the English/Latin term “metaphor”? What is at stake in making this comparison?
- What political dynamics have shaped the study of metaphor and the literal, both in the past and today?
- How have theories of metaphor been managed, interpreted, and reworked, including in the modern period?
- How have Islamicate theories of metaphor been applied to narrative? How might they be used?
- What is the relation between metaphor, example, anecdote, and comparison?
- What implications do theories of metaphor have for translation?
SEMINAR KEYWORDS: metaphor, rhetoric, arabic, persian, urdu, world, literature, literalism, hermeneutics, non-western, pre-modern theory, south-south comparison, poetics