Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Encyclopaedism in the Mamluk Period: The Composition of Shihāb al-Dīn al-Nuwayrī's (d. 1333) “Nihāyat al-Arab fī Funūn al-Adab”
by Muhanna, Elias Ibrahim, Ph.D., Harvard University, 2012, 274; 3514382
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation explores the emergence of a golden age of Arabic encyclopaedic literature in the scholarly centers of Egypt and Syria during the Mamluk Empire (1250–1517). At the heart of the project is a study of Shih ab al-Din Ahmad b. `Abd al-Wahh ab al-Nuwayri's (d. 1333) Nih ayat al-arab fi funu n al-adab ('The Ultimate Ambition in the Branches of Erudition'), a 31-volume encyclopaedic work composed at the beginning of the 14th century and divided into five parts: (i) heaven and earth; (ii) the human being; (iii) animals; (iv) plants; and (v) the history of the world.

My study examines the formal arrangement, thematic contents, and codicological features of this seminal work, arguing that the rise of encyclopaedism in this period was emblematic of a certain intellectual ethos, a systematic approach to the classification of knowledge which emerged in the discursive context of a rapidly centralizing imperial state. I argue that the Nih aya grew out of an amalgam of several genres (including the adab anthology, the cosmographical compendium, the chancery scribe manual, the dynastic chronicle, and the commonplace book), developing into a new form and serving a different purpose from its literary predecessors. Such texts, long considered tokens of intellectual and cultural decadence, demonstrate the strategies used by Mamluk religious scholars, chancery scribes, and litterateurs to navigate an ever-growing corpus of accumulated knowledge.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Heinrichs, Wolfhart P.
Commitee: Ahmed, M. Shahab, Blair, Ann
School: Harvard University
Department: Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations
School Location: United States -- Massachusetts
Source: DAI-A 73/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Middle Eastern literature, Islamic Studies, Near Eastern Studies
Keywords: Adab, Anthologies, Encyclopedias, History of the book, Mamluk, Manuscripts, Nihayat al-Arab fi Funun al-Adab, Nuwayri, Aḥmad ibn `Abd al-Wahhab
Publication Number: 3514382
ISBN: 9781267451743
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