This essay addresses the challenges of teaching the poetry of the Abbasid modernizers (muḥdathūn) in a global context. The historicist approach to Arabic poetry in general, and to pre-modern Arabic poetry in particular, makes it difficult to engage with the work of these revolutionary poets poetically. A creative and comparatist approach to translation and an insistence on foregrounding this poetry’s relevance beyond its historical moment are ways of overcoming the hegemony of the historical imperative and inviting students to connect with this body of literature rhetorically and creatively. My observations are grounded in readings of samples from the work of Abbasid poets Abū Nuwās (d. 815) and Abū Tammām (d.845).
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