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Leese, Simon (2019) Longing for Salmá and Hind : (Re)producing Arabic Literature in 18th and 19th-Century North India. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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Arabic writing is an important but neglected aspect of Indian cultural history. Likewise, being on the Arabic “periphery”, India is almost always overlooked in histories of Arabic literature. As a two-pronged intervention to these fields, this thesis studies Arabic poetry and anthologies produced in North India in the 18th and 19th centuries, and the different ways in which these cultural productions responded to and reconstituted the Arabic canon as seen from the region. My research relies on a large archive of hitherto un-researched printed books and manuscripts in Indian and UK libraries, and incorporates figures such as Shāh Walī Allāh, Ghulām ʿAlī “Āzād” al-Bilgrāmī, and Nawāb Ṣiddīq Ḥasan Khān alongside lesser known poets, scholars, printers, and book sellers who participated in the vibrant field of Arabic textual production As well as drawing on this rich archive to reconstruct neglected aspects of Indian and Arabic cultural history and to excavate south-south connections, the thesis investigates the meanings Arabic poetry takes on in a multilingual literary culture. I ask how the poetics of nostalgia, love, and devotion are read multilingually, sometimes through overt translation into Persian and Urdu. The thesis also explores how poetic meaning is inflected by imaginations of space. Arabic scholars in India had a rich historical and geographical awareness, deploying Arabic poetics in a variety of textual and material forms to articulate their relationship both to their own geographies, to canonical Arabic writers of the past, and to contemporaries within transregional networks that linked India with Yemen, the Hejaz, Egypt, and Iraq. I argue that multilingual poetic meaning and articulations of selfhood were structured by the maintenance of multiple gazes to time-spaces of the past and present. In doing so, I suggest possible avenues for reading Arabic’s other multilingual pasts and multilingual poetics more generally.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Francesca Orsini
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 30 Jan 2020 11:52

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