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Friendship and Hierarchy: Rhetorical Stances in Geniza Mercantile Letters

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Chapter Summary

Over the past few decades, as scholarly study of the "documentary Geniza" has progressed, some researchers have been drawn into the study of the documents not just as sources of data but as literary artifacts, a rich resource for tracing writing practice in Islamic society. The majority of study has focused on the use of formulas and vocabulary, since they make the most obvious point of contact with the literary and bureaucratic records, but some pioneering studies have also encompassed general rhetorical practices or attempted to generate typologies of document types. Mark Cohen typological sketch of letters of petition from the Geniza, shows how persistent the order and topics of these documents has been across more than a millennium of Mediterranean history. His work on the translation of Muslim formulas into Geniza letters, considers the particular ways Jewish letter-writers directly borrowed or adapted literary norms with specific religious content.

Keywords: Geniza letters; Islamic society; Jewish letter-writers; Mark Cohen; Muslim formulas; rhetorical practices



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