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Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies

Rooms 8 & 9, Faculty of Asian & Middle Eastern Studies
Event date: 
Thursday, 28 February, 2019 - 17:15 to 18:45
Event organiser: 

Speaker: Prof. James Montgomery, Sir Thomas Adams's Professor of Arabic, Dept. of Middle Eastern Studies, Univeristy of Cambridge

Presented as part of the Middle Eastern Studies Seminar Series

Free and open to all

[ poster ]

The Arabic poets of antiquity were keen observers of nature. Their poems abound with descriptions of horses, camels, onagers, oryxes, ostriches, eagles and snakes. I will talk this evening about my project to collate, edit and translate a corpus of poems known as ṭardiyyāt: for two centuries, from the second to the fourth century hijri, poems devoted exclusively to descriptions of the hunt and the animals of the hunt, were very popular: more than 200 have survived. They describe all manner of animals, from saker and peregrine falcons, to goshawks, saluqis, and cheetahs; and there are poems on hunting with nets and hand-held bows. The poems reveal an intimate familiarity with the physiology and ethology of the animals they feature, and prompt some intriguing considerations about human—non-human animal interaction, about poetry as an expression of political comportment, and about humanity’s persistence in conceiving of the natural world as a mirror of human concerns.

James E. Montgomery is Sir Thomas Adams’s Professor of Arabic and Fellow of Trinity Hall at the University of Cambridge. He is an Executive Editor of the Library of Arabic Literature. Currently, he enjoys reading the poetry of Borges, the novels of Iris Murdoch and the writings of Dubravka Ugresiç, and listening to Puccini. He has given talks all over the world, from Huangshan, China, to the Sharjah International Book Fair, Poets House in Manhattan and the Bergen Literary Festival. His latest publications are Loss Sings, a contribution to the distinguished Cahiers series, a collaboration with the celebrated Scottish artist Alison Watt, chosen by Marina Warner for the Times Literary Supplement as one of her best books of 2018, and a joint translation with the translator Richard Sieburth of the poems of ʿAntarah ibn Shaddād, published by the Library of Arabic Literature as War Songs. He is also preparing a translation of a selection of poems by al-Mutanabbī for Archipelago Books.