December 04, 2023 5:00 PM to 7:00 PMUptown Campus
Sometime before the turn of the 8th century AD, the ruling Caliph of the Islamic world at the time, ʿAbdalmalik b. Marwān, summoned one of his court poets named Arṭāt b. Suhayya.
“Will you be composing any poetry today?” asked the Caliph.
“My God, how can I?” Arṭāt the poet answered. “I’m not feeling bittersweet, I’m not angry, I’m not drinking, and I don’t feel longing for anything. Poetry proceeds only from one of these four states.”
This short anecdote and others like it are the basis of this lecture, which shows how literature, art, philosophy, history, religion—in other words, the humanities in general—are all about people making sense of their experiences, most especially of their emotions. Or as W.H. Auden said of poetry, they are “the clear expression of mixed feelings.” Together, we will explore how and why this happens in the literatures of the Islamic world.
Kevin Blankinship is an assistant professor at Brigham Young University, where he teaches Arabic and Islamic Studies. His research is about classical Arabic literature, and he is now writing a book about animals in the works of 11th-century satirist, moralist, and witty man of letters al-Ma`arri. Dr. Blankinship’s work has been supported by the Fulbright-Hays Program, the American Institute for Maghrib Studies, the Independent Research Fund Denmark, and the University of Utah. He is also a contributing editor at New Lines Magazine and has written for popular press venues like The Atlantic, The Los Angeles Review of Books, and Foreign Policy.
Professor Blankinship will give his lecture Monday, December 4 at 5:00pm in Stone Auditorium in the Woldenberg Art Building, followed by a catered reception. This event is sponsored by the Middle East & North African Studies Program and the Medieval & Early Modern Studies Program, with funding from the Center for Scholars.