The University of Zurich will host Sharḥ, Tafsīr, and Ḥāshiya, a workshop on the form, function, and context of pre-modern commentary writing in Arabic, on June 15-16, 2020.
About the workshop: The pre-modern Arabic literary landscape is full of commentaries, meta-commentaries, and auto-commentaries of various shapes and sizes, such that commentary-writing indisputably stood as one of the main forms of scholarly textual output over the centuries. Some features of this tradition have received their fair share of attention; others remain yet to be explored. While the importance of, for example, Quranic or philosophical commentary as a source for Muslim intellectual history has been recognised in the last decades, commentaries in most other fields are often mentioned only for the purpose of demonstrating the popularity of the text commented upon. Questions relating to why commentaries were composed in the first place, in what institutional settings, according to what conventions and with what techniques remain generally under-explored. This workshop will focus on two principal aspects of the study of commentary and commentating practices: (1.) the techniques of commentary-writing; and (2.) its audience and reception. In the first area, we are interested in the interaction and connections between text and commentary. This could be summarised with the simple question, “how does commentary work?”. In the second, we encourage papers that give consideration to readers and likely readerships of commentaries, either by studying the para-texts of commentaries (e.g. marginalia etc.) or sociologically, by looking at groups of readers, and owners of manuscripts. This could be summarised with the question, “how was commentary used?”.
We invite papers dealing with commentaries written in Arabic any time before roughly the 15th century, belonging to any genre (philosophy, theology, literature, medicine, sciences, etc.). Possible questions to be dealt with may include (but are not limited to):
- How does a commentary work? Which elements of a text receive what kind of attention, which parts are not commentated upon? What kinds of relationship exist between the text and the commentary?
- What is considered a good commentary, a bad commentary?
- Why was it ever important to write a commentary? Are there different kinds of motivation that lead to different kinds of commentary?
- Who wrote commentaries and when? Is commentary writing something a beginner does or rather the opposite? Do people write different kinds of commentaries at different stages in their careers?
- Who are the intended readers and audiences?
- Who really commissioned, read, owned, or taught a commentary? Where were they composed?
- How are commentaries presented in their manuscripts? How is the link between the base-text and the commentary established, both linguistically and at the level of layout?
- Why are there so many “auto-commentaries”, i.e. commentaries written by the author of the commented work?
The selected participants will be notified by October 30, 2019.
Accommodation in Zurich will be provided. We will probably also be able to cover travel costs, but please try to obtain funding for travel from your home institution in the first instance.
Dr. James Weaver, University of Zurich
Prof. Dr. Regula Forster, Freie Universität Berlin/University of Zurich
© International Qur’anic Studies Association, 2019. All rights reserved.