Universiteit Leiden

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  • Sarah Bowen Savant
  • Maxim Romanov
Thursday 11 May 2017
KITAB LUCIS lectures
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

About "Networks"

This fifth lecture of the KITAB LUCIS lectures explores the uses of Digital Humanities within the study of the medieval literary Arab tradition. With text reuse methods, we can map networks in new and more precise ways based on the circulation of texts. We can consider how ideas travelled, and also their contexts of reception. This lecture begins with a discussion of networks and text reuse as an emerging subfield in the Digital Humanities. The speakers provide examples of networks that can be mapped using KITAB’s corpus.

This lecture finishes with an examination of Arabic multi-text compilations, or majmūʿāt, which are not “books,” in the conventional sense, but instead represent the collecting efforts of specific times and locales, and in their scope, something of libraries in miniature (or perhaps “readers’ digests”). A specifix text is used, Fazil Ahmed Pasha 01589, now held by the Süleymaniye library in Istanbul, which was written in several hands, and contains 107 fragments of texts in Arabic and Persian, with 67 of them copied into the margins. She explores the historiographical filters and networks that created this text and brought it to fourteenth century Istanbul. Consideration of majmūʿāt allows her to discuss networks from another angle and to summarize and extend points in lectures 1-4.

About the speakers

Sarah Savant

Sarah Bowen Savant is a cultural historian, focusing on early Islamic history and history writing up to 1100, with a special focus on Iraq and Iran. She is the author of The New Muslims of Post-Conquest Iran: Tradition, Memory, and Conversion (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), which won the Saidi-Sirjani Book Award, given by the International Society for Iranian Studies on behalf of the Persian Heritage Foundation. Her other publications include The Excellence of the Arabs: A Translation of Ibn Qutaybah’s Faḍl al-ʿArab wa l-tanbīh ʿalā ʿulūmihā (with Peter Webb; The Library of Arabic Literature; Abu Dhabi: New York University Press, 2016), as well as articles and edited volumes dealing with ethnic identity, cultural memory, genealogy, and history writing. Her current book project focuses on the history of books in the Middle East. With a team, she is developing digital methods to study the origins and development of the Arabic and Persian textual traditions. Please see kitab-project.org.

Maxim Romanov

Maxim Romanov’s dissertation (Near Eastern Studies, U of Michigan, 2013) explored how modern computational techniques of text analysis can be applied to the study of premodern Arabic historical sources. In particular, he studied “The History of Islam” (Ta’rikh al-islam), the largest surviving biographical collection with over 30,000 biographies, written by the Damascene scholar al-Dhahabi (d. 1348 CE). He is continuing his research and develops methods of computational analysis for other genres of premodern Arabic literature, mainly large volume collections that can offer insights into long-term and large-scale developments that took place during the pre-modern period of Islamic history. He is working on two book projects: (1) “The History of Islam”: An Essay in Digital Humanities continues the study of al-Dhahabi’s tremendous collection of biographies, while (2) The Gift to the Knowledgeable 2.0, explores cultural production in the Islamic world until the beginning of the 20th century through the study of the Hadiyyat al-‘arifin, a bibliographical collection composed by Isma‘il Basha al-Baghdadi (d. 1920).

About the KITAB LUCIS lectures

In April and May 2017 LUCIS Spring Fellow Sarah Savant will deliver five public lectures on the transmissions of text in the Middle East in the period of 750-1500 C.E. This series explores the literary culture of the medieval Arab world. How and why did authors copy past books ? The main goal of the lectures is to document the extent of copying that went on in the Arabic tradition and to consider the types of research questions that can now be addressed with text reuse methods, among them the nature of authorship in medieval times, the cultural meanings assigned to copying, the ways that canons came into existence and passed out, how history was filtered, and the networks through which texts passed.

Besides these lectures, Sarah Savant will also offer several masterclasses that give students the opportunity for a hands-on experience with digital humanities methods for studying medieval texts. In these classes, students will read a variety of medieval Arab texts, and work with several new methods to analyse their contents. The masterclasses will be given on April 11, 21 and 28; and May 3 and 12. Third year BA students, MA students and PhD students are encouraged to register at lucis@hum.leidenuniv.nl. More information will soon follow.

Thousands of texts pertaining to all aspects of cultural history survive for the period from 750 to 1500; these are widely available in open-access digital formats on the internet. Hundreds or perhaps thousands more survive in manuscript collections across the Middle East. This storehouse of memory can now be studied in completely new ways using digital technology that measures text reuse (i.e., the repetition of textual units) and that can reveal the form of the Arabic textual tradition as well as its development, priorities, and blind spots. Arabic authors frequently made use of past works, cutting them into pieces and reconstituting them to address their own outlooks and concerns. Texts and fragments of texts thus flowed within profoundly intertextual circulatory systems that can be reconstructed and analysed.

The lectures will be based on nearly two years of research and development work on KITAB, a research project led by Sarah Savant, which studies text reuse across the Arabic and Persian textual traditions.

Find more information here: KITAB LUCIS lectures

We thank the Leiden Centre for Digital Humanities and BRILL for their support of this lecture.

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