This book explores the intricately crafted rhetorical strategies used by al-Jahiz in his letters.
The 9th-century essayist, theologian and encyclopedist 'Amr b.
Bahr al-Jahiz has long been acknowledged as a master of early Arabic prose writing.
One of his literary techniques was to write for a broad audience but present his text as a letter to an individual.
Many of his most engaging pieces were written in this way, but surprisingly little academic attention has been paid to them.
Now, Thomas Hefter takes a new approach in interpreting some of al-Jahiz's 'epistolary monographs'.
By focussing on the varying ways in which he wrote to the addressee, Hefter shows how al-Jahiz shaped his conversations on the page in order to guide (or manipulate) his actual readers and encourage them to engage with his complex materials.
It looks at letters from one of the most unique minds of the Abbasid era that cover sectarian and ethnic rivalries, ethical questions, intoxicating beverages and daily life.
It relates al-Jahiz's experiments with the letter frame to his views on occupations, human geography and other issues of his day. It examines the role of self-parody in al-Jahiz's fictional conversations with his addresses.
It explores the rich interplay of contending voices.