Michael Cooperson (Los Angeles/Abu Dhabi)
May, 04 to May 05, 2017
In What Is Islam: the importance of being Islamic (2016), the late Shahab Ahmed argues that wine-drinking, same-sex love, falsafah, and Sufism are not external to Islam, but rather practices which, in conjunction with their opposites, define Islam. This talk asks whether Ahmed's thesis can help illuminate some of the enigmatic features of al-Ḥarīrī's Maqāmāt (completed 504/1111). In some episodes, al-Ḥarīrī's heroes, Abū Zayd and al-Ḥārith, drink wine; in others they abstain. In some cases they wish they could drink more, and in others wish they drank less. Engaging with Ahmed’s thesis, I will argue that these contradictions together convey a strange (to modern sensibilities) but coherent vision of addiction, consolation, language, and religion.
Michael Cooperson (PhD Harvard 1994) is Professor for Near Eastern Languages and Cultures and teaches Arabic at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has published two monographs (Classical Arabic Biography: the heirs of the prophets in the age of al-Ma᾽mūn, Cambridge 2000 and a biography on the caliph al-Ma᾽mūn, Oxford, 2005 beyond several proceedings volumes and articles on early Abbasid cultural history. He has further translated the work of Abdelfattah Kilito, Khayri Shalabi, Jurji Zaydan, and Ibn al-Jawzī into English. His other research interests include Maltese language and culture. He is currently a fellow of the Library of Arabic Literature at NYU Abu Dhabi (http://www.libraryofarabicliterature.org/), where he is working on an English translation of al-Ḥarīrī's Maqāmāt.
The lecture is part of the international research conference Khamriyya as a World Poetic Genre: Comparative Perspectives on Wine Poetry in Near and Middle Eastern Literatures, May 3-7, 2017 and co-organized with the American University of Beirut, European Research Council, University of Cambridge and University of St Andrews. The event is supported by Chateau Kefraya.