Epistolary Prose, Poetry and Oratory: Essentials of the Debate

Adrian Gully

in The Culture of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print February 2008 | ISBN: 9780748633739
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653133 | DOI:
Epistolary Prose, Poetry and Oratory: Essentials of the Debate

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The prominence of epistolography prose has remained because it was effectively guaranteed by a debate that attempted to justify the superiority of prose over poetry, and to a lesser extent, prose over oratory. The popularity of epistolography prose was also sustained by the very fact that the secretary controlled the literary climate to which the epistolary genre belonged, and exploited that situation to emphasise that his pen was also his sword. This chapter aims to determine why and how letter-writing come to prominence as the most important form of artistic prose communication, and how it remained the most popular form of writing for many centuries. It discusses the complex relationship between poetry, oratory and prose in Arabic literature as it is presented by the pre-modern literary critics, and illustrates how some of them argued that epistolary prose was the supreme literary art form. The discussion is balanced by brief evaluation of those writers who attempted to assert the authority of poetry over prose.

Keywords: epistolography prose; prose; poetry; oratory; letter-writing; Arabic literature

Chapter.  11522 words. 

Subjects: Society and Culture

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