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Journal ArticleDOI

The Persian Translation of Arabic Aesthetics: Rādūyānī's Rhetorical Renaissance

01 Nov 2016-Rhetorica-a Journal of The History of Rhetoric (University of California Press)-Vol. 34, Iss: 4, pp 339-371
TL;DR: The authors argue that Rādūyānī9s vernacularization is most consequential with respect to its transformation of the classical Arabic tropes of metaphor ( istiʿāra ) and comparison ( tashbīh ) to suit the new exigencies of a New Persian literary culture.
Abstract: Notwithstanding its value as the earliest extant New Persian treatment of the art of rhetoric, Rādūyānī9s Interpreter of Rhetoric ( Tarjumān al-Balāgha ) has yet to be read from the vantage point of comparative poetics. Composed in the Ferghana region of modern Central Asia between the end of the eleventh century and the beginning of the twelfth century, Rādūyānī9s vernacularization of classical Arabic norms inaugurated literary theory in the New Persian language. I argue here that Rādūyānī9s vernacularization is most consequential with respect to its transformation of the classical Arabic tropes of metaphor ( istiʿāra ) and comparison ( tashbīh ) to suit the new exigencies of a New Persian literary culture. In reversing the relation between metaphor and comparison enshrined in Arabic aesthetics, Rādūyānī concretized the Persian contribution to the global study of literary form.

Summary (2 min read)

FROM METAPHOR TO COMPARISON

  • Both mustaʿ ār and mustaʿīr, the key terms in this distich, are participial forms of the Arabic root for borrowing ( ‫ﺭ‬ ‫ﻭ‬ ‫ﻉ‬ ).
  • The successive images of the sun's rays, the lover's face and hands, and the sea's waves, successively abdicate metaphorical meaning to literal signification.
  • The authors task here is to discover how these conceptual configurations and the poetry they engendered transformed twelfth-century Persian literary culture.

ARABIC RHETORIC BEFORE THE NEW PERSIAN RENAISSANCE

  • A brief tour through the history of Arabic rhetoric is necessary to clarify Rādūyānī's endeavor to articulate a distinctively Persian poetics from within the Arabic rhetorical tradition.
  • 14 ʿAbd al-Qāhir al-Jurjānī, the most important theorist in Arabic rhetoric, wrote Asrār al-Balāgha (Secrets of Rhetoric) in part to correct what he saw as a lamentable tendency within the Arabic literary theory of his time to privilege form (lafz : ) over meaning .
  • In the centuries following al-Jurjānī, balāgha compendiums based largely on his work tended to subordinate tropology (badīʿ ) to elucidation .
  • For the first kind of metaphor, see Wolfhart Heinrichs, The Hand of the Northwind: opinions on metaphor and the early meaning of istiʿ āra in Arabic poetics (Wiesbaden: Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft, 1977).

DISTINCTIONS AND TAXONOMIES

  • Rādūyānī acknowledges three modes through which comparisons attain to efficacy.
  • To the extent that he understands each category in terms of the other, his definitions are negative.
  • Comparisons are metaphors that do not cause confusion (id : t : erāb); they specify the nature of the relation between the two objects compared, whereas a metaphor relies on an unstated object that nonetheless motivates the image.
  • Here as elsewhere, Rādūyānī's lexicon is difficult to dissect analytically because, while the concepts he evokes and the distinctions in which he deals are philosophically implicated, his lexicon is conditioned by the infancy of New Persian as a medium for analytical expression.

ANTICIPATING COMPARISON

  • Rādūyānī's account of istiʿ āra partially reproduces al-Jurjānī's distinction between metaphors based on analogy and metaphors based on comparison .
  • Later in Asrār, al-Jurjānī explains the grounds for his preference for metaphor over comparison : the former to his mind leaves more space for interpretation.
  • Likewise for the second hemistich: "wheel's ear" (gush-i charkh) obviously refers to the enemy army; no less obviously, it references the heavens.
  • In spite of its classification as a metaphor in Rādūyānī's treatise, the operation of figural expression within this verse, cited to illustrate metaphor, approximates what al-Jurjānī calls tashbīh, wherein figurative interpretation is requisite for comprehension.
  • Your root, branch, leaf, and fruit are from silver, moonlight, musk, and aloe.

The Persian Translation of Arabic Aesthetics

  • Composed in the ramal meter, which allows from sixteen to twenty-two syllables to the line, these distichs perfectly illustrate the distinction between metaphor and comparison foundational to Persian literary theory.
  • Whereas simple metaphor of the kind commonly encountered in Arabic poetry and poetics after the advent of Islam generally permitted only one genitive relation per poem, the loan metaphor in Qas : s : ār's text entails four contingently linked images.
  • For the philosophical impact of Jurjānīan aesthetics, and in order to witness its creative potential, one must turn not to late medieval Arabic scholasticism but to the New Persian literary theory pioneered by Rādūyānī and, after him, Wat : wāt : and Shams-i Qays.
  • Not coincidentally, the poetics of the text reproduces the lover/beloved relation: the speaker and his beloved merge as they are compared to related objects: a bow, blackness, and agate.
  • With Rādūyānī, comparison acquired precedence over metaphor, and thereby both extended and revised al-Jurjānī's contribution.

DEFENDING COMPARISON

  • The story of tashbīh's peregrinations from Ibn al-Muʿtazz's Book of the New (Kitāb al-Badīʿ) to Rādūyānī's Tarjumān should not be reduced to a single word's etymological divagations.
  • While the precise and often contradictory deployments of the word tashbīh are internal to the history of the relation between metaphor and comparison in New Persian poetics, usage must take precedence over etymology if the implications of the transformation effected by the Persianization of Arabic literary theory are to be made palpable.
  • These three beauties are, as with Ibn al-Muʿtazz's mah : āsin, For an isolated exception to this claim, see the following note.
  • Āsin are clearly distinct from conceptual tropes; but whereas Rādūyānī's source for this distinction may be Ibn al-Muʿtazz and his followers, the Persian theorist differs from the Arabic poet-theorist in assigning particular tropes to particular categories, also known as Rādūyānī's mah.

ʿ

  • Uns : urī's lines exemplify what Rādūyānī considers a more successful comparison, wherein an idea that has been concealed is presented in external form (z : āhir).
  • ʿUns : urī's comparison evokes the suffering endured by those on the wrong side of war: the defeated warrior grips with his two hands the reins of his horse, which resembles a chain leading to hell, while his feet on the horse's bridle evokes the column to which the prisoner's legs are inextricably tied.
  • The logic implies that the incarcerated deserve captivity just as enemies who die on the battlefield deserve death.
  • Even more revealingly of Rādūyānīan poetics, and of New Persian poetic generally, the literal is made figural; war becomes a site of confinement, and the enemy's body comes to resemble a prisoner.
  • Far from critiquing power, as with many of the comparisons adduced by later 57 I cite here from Utas, "The Aesthetic Use of New Persian," 14.

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REBECCA GOULD
The Persian Translation of Arabic Aesthetics:
Rādūyānīs Rhetorical Renaissance
Abstract: Notwithstanding its value as the earliest extant New Persian
treatment of the art of rhetoric, Rādūyānīs Interp reter of Rhetoric
(Tarjumānal-Balāgha)hasyettobereadfromthevantagepointofcom-
parative poetics. Composed in the Ferghana region of modern Central
Asia between the end of the eleventh century and the beginning of the
twelfth century, Rādūyānīs vernacularization of classical Arabic
norms inaugurated literary theory in the New Persian language. I
argue here that Rādūyānīs vernacularization is most consequential
with respect to its transformation of the classical Arabic tropes of met-
aphor (isti
ʿ
āra) and comparison (tas hbīh) to suit the new exigencies of a
New Persian literary culture. In reversing the relation between meta-
phor and comparison enshrined in Arabic aesthetics, Rādūyānī con-
cretized the Persian contribution to the global study of literary form.
Keywords: comparison, simile, metaphor, New Persian, rhetoric,
vernacularization, literary theory, poetics
T
he difference made by Islamic literary theory in a global con-
text becomes clear when we compare mimesis, the concept of
literary representation that grounds many classical and
modern aesthetic systems, with the philologically oriented language-
based rhetoric of classical Arabic and Persian literary theory. For
Aristotle, as for his teacher Plato, the basic task of poesis is to represent
reality. For Arabo-Persian literary theory, the task of poetry is less to
represent reality than to surpass it; the poetic imagination generates
The author would like to express gratitude to the American Philosophical Soci-
ety, which funded this research through a Franklin Research Grant, and to Regina
Hong (Yale-NUS College) for her editorial assistance.
Rhetorica,Vol.XXXIV,Issue4,pp.339371. ISSN: 0734-8584, electronic ISSN:
1533-8541. © 2016 by The International Society for the History of Rhetoric. All rights
reserved. Please direct all requests for permission to photocopy or reproduce article
content through the University of California Presss Reprints and Permissions web page,
http://www.ucpress.edu/journals.php?p=reprints. DOI: 10.1525/rh.2016.34.4.339.

a discourse surpassing that given by literal language.
1
Where Aristotle
points to plot as the basic element of a literary work,
2
Arabic and Per-
sian literary critics foreground the role of the imagination (khayāl)in
the creation of the literary artifact. Thus, for Aristotle, phantasia,the
Arabic khayāl (or takhyīl, the word used to translate phantasia)ismere
outward show, pleasing to the hearer but necessarily a superficial
aspect of rhetoric.
3
For classical Arabic literary theory, the assertion that
the best poetry is that which lies the most (ah
:
san al-shi
ʿ
r akdhabuhu)
became a commonly-cited slogan for poetrys efficacy.
4
A literary tradi-
tion that regards the best poetry as that which lies the most will also
refuse to subordinate the literary imagination to rhetoric and persua-
sion, as in Aristotle, or to philosophical wisdom (sophia), as in Plato.
In contrast with Platonic aesthetics, reality, even truthful reality, is not
necessarily the target of the classical Arabic poetsimagination.
In contrast to a conception of mimesis premised on verisimilitude,
Arabic literary theory regards figurative language as the arbiter of
poetic meaning. The distinctiveness and sophistication of Arabic liter-
ary theory has long been appreciated by specialists, even though its
integration into global literary thought remains incomplete.
5
Less
understood, and less widely appreciated even by specialists, is the con-
tribution made by Persian literary theory to the conceptualization of
the literary imagination. Increasingly, specialists are coming to recog-
nize the divergences between the Persian and Arabic contributions.
Bo Utas has argued that the enormous prestige that came to be accu-
mulated by poetic and other literary uses of Persian gave the aesthetic
dimension a dominant position in the Iranian view of language, and
even of culture in general.
6
While this field of inquiry is still in
infancy, it represents one of the most promising areas of comparative
research within global literary theory.
1
See Karla Mallette, Beyond Mimesis: Aristotles Poetics in the Medieval Medi-
terranean, PMLA 124 (2009): 583591, and Rebecca Gould, The Poetics from Athens
to al-Andalus: Ibn Rushds Grounds for Comparison, Modern Philology 112.1 (2014):
124.
2
Aristotle privileges plot to character on ethical grounds: though we consider
peoples characters in deciding what sort of persons they are we call them successful
or successful only with reference to their actions (Poetics 1450b, in Ancient Literary
Criticism, ed. D.A. Russell and M. Winterbottom [Oxford: Oxford UP, 1972], 98).
3
Rhetoric, 1404a, trans. Sir Richard Jebb (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1909).
4
Al-Jurjānī quotes a slight variation on this phrase: khayr al-shi
ʿ
r akdhabuhu
(Asrār al-Balāgha, ed. Ritter [Istanbul: Istanbul Government Press, 1954], 243).
5
For insight into the current state of inquiry, see the landmark collection edited
by Geert Jan van Gelder and Marlé Hammond: Takhyil: The Imaginary in Classical Ara-
bic Poetics (Oxford: Gibb Memorial Trust, 2009).
6
Bo Utas, The Aesthetic Use of New Persian, Edabiyat 9 (1998): 1.
340 RHETORICA

In the spirit of furthering this line of inquiry, this essay elucidates,
for the first time in English, the contribution of a text that entered the
world at the crossroads of the Arabic and Persian traditions to the
conceptualization of literary knowledge. Muh
:
ammad bin ʿUmar
Rādūyānīs Interpreter of Rhetoric (Tarjumānal-Balāgha,henceforth
Tarjumān) coincided with the advent of New Persian, the literary
language that was formed by infusing an Iranian vernacular with an
Arabic lexicon and script. Poetry had been composed in New Persian
since the age of Rūdakī (858940) and Ferdowsīs Shāhnāma (c. 1025),
but scholarship in New Persian was as rare as was the languages
grammatical formalization. Éva Jeremías states the matter forthrightly
when she writes that Iranians did not deal with the grammatical
problems of their mother tongue during the classical period of New
Persian literature.
7
Looking ahead in time, the Indo-Persian poet Amīr
Khusrow (d. 1258) wrote for the sweet speaks of Persians / no gram-
matical system has been devised by the eloquent ones [ahl-i bayān]/
I would like to undertake this task / and to set matters straight / but
as everyone knows the language, / there is no need.
8
Central Asia had witnessed the rapid spread of New Persian
under the patronage of the Samanids (1011
th
centuries).
9
By the time
Rādūyānī set out to compose his rhetorical treatise, Ferdowsī had
already completed the most important epic in Persian literature.
Rūdakī and scores of other Persian poets whose work are no longer
extant had pioneered new genres and reinvented Arabic ones.
10
Also
under Samanid patronage, Balʿamī translated al-T
:
abarīs History of the
Apostles and the Kings (Tārīkh al-rūsūlwaal-mulūk) into Persian. Aside
from this landmark endeavor to translate Arabic historical discourse
into Persian, scholarly writing in the eastern Islamic world was for
many centuries after the composition of Rādūyānīs treatise confined
primarily to Arabic. Against the background of this linguistic division
of disciplinary labor, whereby Persian was reserved for poetry and
Arabic for scholarship, Rādūyānīs decision to compose his treatise
7
Éva M. Jeremías, Grammar and Linguistic Consciousness in Persian, in Char-
les Melville, ed., Proceedings of the Third European Conference of Iranian Studies held in
Cambridge 11th to 15th September 1995 (Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 1999), 20.
8
Amīr Khusraw Dihlawī, Nuh Sipihr of Amir Khusraw, ed. Wah
:
īdMīrzā (London:
Oxford University Press, 1950), 173173 (Persian text).
9
For overviews of the New Persian literary language, see G. Lazard, The Rise of
the New Persian Language, R.N. Frye, ed., The Cambridge History of Iran, vol. 4 (Cam-
bridge, Cambridge University Press, 1975), chap. 19, p. 595632, and Lazard, La For-
mation de la langue persane (Paris: Peeters, 1995), 4980.
10
Some of this poetry is collected in G. Lazard, Les Premiers poètes persans (IXe -
Xe siècles). Fragments rassemblés, édités et traduits (Paris: Maisonneuve, 1964). 2 vols.
The Persian Translation of Arabic Aesthetics 341

on rhetoric in Persian marked a new moment in Persian literary con-
sciousness. Although the sporadic textual record makes absolute
claims impossible, Tarjumān appears in many respects like a genuine
first in the history of New Persian literature.
By way of better clarifying the importance of this text, I will dwell
on its way of conceiving a series of key literary terms, before turning to
the broader implications of these taxonomies. In light of Rādūyānīs
merger of translation and interpretation in his treatise, I adhere wher-
ever possible to consistent (if imperfect) English renderings of Rādūyā-
nīs ultimately untranslatable lexicon. The key concepts to bear in
mind as I proceed are comparison (tashbīh), metaphor (isti
ʿ
āra), anal-
ogy (tamthīl), literal reality (h
:
aqīqa), figural reality (majāz), idea (ma
ʿ
nī)
and utterance (lafz
:
). I argue that the relationship between the first
two of these terms shifted when the language of eastern Islamic liter-
ary culture switched from Arabic to Persian. Given the fluidity of the
significations I explore, each of these renderings is open to contesta-
tion. Yet their translation necessarily precedes their incorporation into
global literary theory.
While this article argues for Rādūyānīs importance to the history
of Islamic literary theory, it also seeks to do more. Beyond making
the incontestable point that the earliest extant treatise of New Persian
literary theory merits deeper analysis, I want to make a case for the rel-
evance of this work for the global study of literary form, in particular
with respect to its account of the relationship between comparison
and metaphor, which moves significantly beyond the Aristotelian
reduction of all similes to metaphorical modes. By way of clarifying
the method through which Rādūyānīs argument proceeds, I begin
with a poem that illustrates the stakes of the dialectic between meta-
phor and comparison and which recapitulates its historical trajectory.
FROM METAPHOR TO COMPARISON
Rādūyānīs contemporary Mujīral-DīnBaylaqānī is one of the most
important, if least known, poets of twelfth-century Azerbaijan. Typi-
cally of the New Persian aesthetic during this century, Mujīrtranslates
the theory of poetic tropology (badī
ʿ
), into the practice of poetry:
ﯿ
11
11
Mujīr al-Dīn Baylaqānī, Dīwān-i Mujīr al-Dīn Baylaqānī, ed. Muh
:
ammad Abādī
(Tabriz: Muassassah-iTārīkh va Farhang-i Irān, 1358), 48.
342 RHETORICA

The sunsrayswereborrowed[musta
ʿ
ār shod]fromtherainbows
shine.
May the seas waves borrow [musta
ʿ
īrbād] from your palm.
Here, as in countless other contemporaneous poems, poetic
alchemy motivates a commentary on poetic signification. Mujī r
draws on the language of rhetoric (balāgha)toadvanceontological
claims concerning the relation betwe en language and be ing. To
say that the sun reflects the light of a rainbow is not merely to
rehearse a repertoire that many Persian poets prior to Mujīrhad
deployed. Rather, it is the language through which this transaction
is expressed that is striking. The sunslightdoesnotreflect;itis
borrowed (musta
ʿ
ārshod). Not coincidentally, this borrowi ng pro-
cess refers at once to the m ovement of imagery within the poem
and to the technical term for metaphor (isti
ʿ
āra)inArabo-Persian
rhetoric, which derives fromtheverbalnounmeaningto bor-
row. Anobjectthatpartakesofanothersbeingin this case the
sun borrowing from a rainbowbecomes, by virtue of its capacity
to move from language to being and back to language, the driving
force behind Mujīrsmetapoetics.
Both musta
ʿ
ār and musta
ʿ
īr, the key terms in this distich, are parti-
cipial forms of the Arabic root for borrowing ( ). Musta
ʿ
ār is a
passive participle while musta
ʿ
īr is an active participle; isti
ʿ
āra,meta-
phor, is a verbal noun of this same root. With the second hemistich,
which asks that the seas waves receive their outlines from the lovers
hands, we arrive at a new moment in metaphors literary history.
Mujīrstermforseabah
:
ralso means meter in Arabo-Persian
prosody. Meter, verse, and not only the seas waves, borrow their lines
from the lovershand.
The successive images of the suns rays, the lovers face and hands,
and the seas waves, successively abdicate metaphorical meaning to
literal signification. Whereas the lover is grammatically active in the
first hemistich, he or she is passive in the second one. The sun receives
light from the loversface;thelovers hand inscribes its lines on the
seas waves. As with the lovers body, so with Mujīrsverse.Hispoetry
alchemically transforms the material substance of his text: the suns
rays are transposed onto the lovers face, and the seas waves are trans-
posed onto the lovers hand. The natural world metamorphoses into
the human body; the poetic self becomes the center of an emptiness
formerly filled by the cosmos. Mujīrs verse inflects the world outside.
The movement from active to passive from the first to the second
hemistich proceeds logically from the dialectic leading from metaphor
conceived of as a loan to the reception of the new poetic creation
The Persian Translation of Arabic Aesthetics 343

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