Arabic Literatures, ‘Elite’ and ‘Folk’ – Junctions and Disjunctions

Pierre Cachia

in Exploring Arab Folk Literature

Published by Edinburgh University Press

Published in print September 2011 | ISBN: 9780748640867
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780748653300 | DOI:
Arabic Literatures, ‘Elite’ and ‘Folk’ – Junctions and Disjunctions

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This chapter notes that language has remained the key constituent in the Arabs' self-view and self-esteem. In early Islam, when Arabs had expanded their reach and had the opportunity to evaluate and assimilate the achievements of other people, we find in various contexts a readiness to credit each group with high attainments in one field of human endeavour. However, the Arabs are always said to be supreme in eloquence and command of language. This chapter discusses Arabic literature, with particular emphasis on the ‘elite’ and ‘folk’ forms of Arabic literature. It includes linguistic bifurcation, pre-Islamic poetry, Andalusian literature, and the interactions of elitist literature and common folk literature.

Keywords: Arabs' self-view; Arabic literature; Islam; pre-Islamic poetry; folk forms; Andalusian literature; linguistic bifurcation; common folk literature

Chapter.  7926 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Society and Culture

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