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A Corpus, Not a Canon

By Oxford University

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The Library of Arabic Literature is a remarkable undertaking. It is publishing, in Arabic and English dual-language volumes, key works of classical and pre-modern Arabic literature from the pre-Islamic era to the cusp of the modern period. Several of these works have not been translated before, while others have not received such careful editing and translation until now, when the editors and translators are consulting original manuscripts. The series launched its first title in December 2012 and, by January 2015, will have published fifteen books. The literature already encompasses a fascinating range of genres, and several other texts are currently being translated or in production—the corpus includes works of mysticism, poetry, wonder tales, long fiction, theology, philosophy, law, science, and history. Supported by a grant from the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute and established in partnership with NYU Press, the series aims to introduce the Arabic literary heritage to specialists and the general public alike, bringing hitherto under-read Arabic literature to English as well as Arabic readers. The workshop at All Souls will be the first opportunity in the UK to discuss this ambitious and important enterprise. It will bring together scholars, translators, and editors of the Library, and invite respondents to discuss the questions that the endeavour raises. Canon formation, comparative criteria of appreciation, and approaches to translation will be explored, among others. The workshop will also address the conjunction of politics and culture in the contemporary Middle East and the issues of cultural diplomacy.