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The Discontinuity of Greek Literary Responses to the Arab World (18th-20th Centuries) George Kehayioglu The literary relations between modern Greece and the Arab world should be a major area of study for scholars of modern Greek and comparative literature, even if limited to the centuries after scholarly orientalism developed in Europe (Schwab 1984; Said 1978). A satisfactory approach would require specialized monographs, which do not exist for Greek-Arab literary relations, although some are available on the relations between Arab literature and the literatures of other Balkan countries, such as Rumania (Anghelescu 1975). The purpose of this paper is threefold: first, to present a brief yet comprehensive survey of materials available for research in this area; second, to examine the reception accorded Arabic literature and culture by modern Greeks; and third, to attempt an overview of the efforts of modern Greeks to approach the Arab world in a scientific and/or scholarly way. A quick review of the literary relations of Byzantine and postByzantine Hellenism with the Islamic and Christian Arabic world from the 7th to 17th centuries is useful as a way of identifying certain trends. After the Arabs expanded in the 7th century, the extended contacts, whether friendly or hostile, between them and the Greeks naturally left many traces in both oral and written literature. At the beginning of this period, the Greeks involved were located mainly in Syria, Palestine , northern Africa, and southern Italy. Later, at the time of the Comneni, the Greeks of Armenia, Syria, and the eastern frontier of Asia Minor were also involved. Many of the works in question attempt neither a discovery of the Arabic east nor a systematic orientalism—at least not at first. Other texts and activities show a different way of facing Arabic literature and culture. The first category includes both archaistic and folk items at the beginning, i.e., in the 8th century. Later, perhaps in the 9th or 10th centuries and subsequently, we find specimens of heroic and epic Journal of Modern Greek Studies, Volume 7, 1989. 65 66 George Kehayioglu poetry (Hunger 1978 II: 113), the Akritic songs and the lengthy romance Digenü Akritü being outstanding examples (Beck 1971: 4897 ; Akritis Aleksiu 1985). There are also histories, chronicles, and Christian theological treatises that, whether dogmatic, apologetic, or hagiographie, share the common purpose of confronting Islam either aggressively or defensively (Beck 1959; Hunger 19781: 326-441,508539 ). In none of these works (whose repetition, adaptation, and popularization continued until the 18th century and occasionally even into the 19th) can one find, however, a conscious disposition to discover the Arabic world or to approach it scientifically. Texts of the second category—for example, translations made in the 7th or 8th centuries and afterwards—constitute the first attempts at a proto-scientific orientalism. The translations of treatises concerning the natural sciences and medicine, and of didactic narratives in fictional prose, deserve special mention (Hunger 1978 I: 92-196,1978 II: 119-142, 265-340). Toward the end of the 11th century one encounters Symeon Seth, perhaps the first conscious Arabist (Hunger 1978 I: 522; 1978 II: 241, 275, 307-309; Beck 1971: 41-44), and his contemporary Michael Andreópulos (Beck 1971: 30, 46-48; Perry 1960; Kehayioglu 1982). Important oriental prose narratives such as Syntipas, Barlaam and Ioasaph, Stephanites and Ichnelates, usually encountered through Arabic intermediaries, brought new elements to the structure and thematology of the Greek prose novel (Kehayioglu 1988). In their Greek form they achieved great success in the Byzantine and post-Byzantine world, spreading both to the West and to Slavic and Balkan countries. They became international Volksbücher, with so many translations that they lagged behind only the Bible, the Koran, and the works of Lenin (Beck 1971: 35-48; Lackner 1977; Papadimitriou 1960; Sjöberg 1962; Cartojan 1974: 353-369; ChitimiaSimonescu 1963 I: xi-xxxvii, 386-389, 1963 II: 289-291; Anghelescu 1975: 40-51; Kehayioglu 1982, 1983a, 1988). During the Comneni period, these translations were perhaps also influenced by the interests of the dynasty and of local officials regarding the eastern frontier in the Arabic East, since their political horizon had changed following the appearance of the Seljuks. These phenomena have not...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-3265
Print ISSN
0738-1727
Pages
pp. 65-76
Launched on MUSE
2010-06-24
Open Access
No
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