NES 255/History 253
Friday, September 1, 2006
Consider the following characterization of the qasidah by Philip Hitti, which appears on p.
93 of History of the Arabs:
"Appearing with Homeric suddenness the qasidah surpasses even the Iliad and the
Odyssey in metrical complexity and elaborateness. And when it makes its first appearance
on the pages of history the qasidah seems governed by a fixed set of conventions:
stereotyped beginning, common epithets, stock figures of speech and the same choice of
themes--all of which point to a long period of development. Rich in animated passion,
expressed in forceful and compact language, the ode is poor in original ideas, in thought-
provoking imagery, and is consequently lacking in universal appeal. The poet and not the
poetry is more often the thing to be admired. Translated into a foreign language it loses its
value. The personal, subjective element prevails. The theme is realistic, the horizon limited,
the point of view local. No national epic was ever developed by the Arabians and no
dramatic work of first-class importance."
Now read the Mu’allaqa of Labid and write 200-300 words in which you adopt a position
regarding Hitti’s characterization of the qasidah. Do you agree or disagree with Hitti, and
As you are reading the poem and writing your essay, you may want to consider some of the
What are the major themes of the poem?
What values does the poem advocate?
What is the relationship between the individual and the tribe?
Do you discern any movement, development or change in the character of the main figure
in the poem, from beginning to middle to end?
NES 255/History 253
Friday, September 12, 2008
Read: Islamic World, 29-67 (selections from the Qur’an)
Your assignment is to write an essay of approximately 300 words on the topic, "On First
Reading the Qur'an" or "On Re-Reading the Qur'an" (for those of you who have read it
The following questions are intended to help you organize your thoughts as you prepare for
Friday's section and compose your essays, due in section. You may want to draw on your
responses to some of these questions in your paper but you need not address all of them.
1. How do you feel as you are reading this material, comfortable or uncomfortable. Why?
2. What is familiar and what unfamiliar about this material? Note down important messages,