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Reviving the Past: al-Shartūnī's Kitāb Matāli' and the Theory of Compilation in the Nahdah

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The Arab Renaissance (nahdah) in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries represents one of the most crucial periods in the development of Arabic literature and culture. This period witnessed a significant revival by nineteenth-century Arab poets and critics of their own literary and cultural heritage in the wake of Western influence. This article examines Sa'īd al-Shartūnī's thesis on poetry, which is part of his larger manual on style and eloquence, Kitāb Matāli'. Studying al-Shartūnī's ideas and approach within his immediate nineteenth-century context reveals him as a compiler who synthesises for a new generation of students the tradition of Arabic criticism as found in the great classics of the medieval period. In so doing, this article exposes broader literary structures underlying writing, reading and interpretation in the nahdah.

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