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Language between God and the Poets: Ma‘na in the Eleventh Century

Alexander Key
University of California Press

In the Arabic eleventh-century, scholars were intensely preoccupied with the way that language generated truth and beauty. Their work in poetics, logic, theology, and lexicography defined the intellectual space between God and the poets. Key argues that ar-Raghib al-Isfahani, Ibn Furak, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), and Abd al-Qahir al-Jurjani shared a conceptual vocabulary based on the words ma‘na and haqiqah. They used this vocabulary to build theories of language, mind, and reality that answered perennial questions: how to structure language and reference, how to describe God, how to construct logical arguments, and how to explain poetic affect.

Alexander Key is an assistant professor of Arabic and comparative literaturea scholar of cassical Arabic literature whose interests range across the intellectual history of the Arabic and Persian-speaking worlds from the seventh century onwards.