From Athens (via Alexandria) to Baghdad: Hybridity as epistemology in the work of al-Kindi, al-Farabi, and in the rhetorical legacy of the medieval Arabic translation movement.
This is a dissertation project on medieval Arabic rhetoric and philosophy that focuses on the innovative nature of the knowledge produced while translating and commenting on foreign works of science and philosophy in Abbasid Baghdad. Chapter One challenges colonial attitudes toward the Translation Movement as exclusively imitative and preservative. The chapter shows that the translations had practical and ideological purposes to fulfill, not simply archival ones. Translation genres are discussed to show how deletions, additions, and new material were introduced during the translation process to ensure that that translation work met the goals of the sponsors. The work of the most renowned translator, Hunayn Ibn Ishaq is discussed in some detail to illustrate the process of translation and to show that translation overlapped with knowledge making. The chapter also covers the translation done in fields such as medicine, astronomy, and philosophy. Chapter Two covers how the work of theorists such as Edward Said, Michel Foucault, and Mikhail Bakhtin enabled me to challenge an Orientalist attitude toward medieval Arabic philosophy as was as show its innovative nature. In Chapter Three, I provide a translation of al-Kindi's "A Statement on the Soul," followed by an analysis of the epistemological and persuasive significance of the treatise. The chapter illustrates how the Arabic engagement with Greek and Neo-Platonic knowledge was dialogic in nature. Chapter Four is a translation of al-Farabi's book of rhetoric. Chapter Five is an analysis of al-Farabi's theory of rhetoric that is based on the previous chapter. It focuses on his understanding of rhetoric as a logical art, how logical and rhetorical terms acquired new meanings when translated from Greek to Arabic in his work, and the rhetorical nature of his work as he adapted Platonic and Aristotelian models to suit his monotheistic context.
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