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Volume :2 Issue : 7 1982      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

The Beginnings Of Arabic Literary Criticism (in Arabic)

Auther : Suleiman El-Shatti

This paper assumes that the maturity of distinguished pre-Islamic poetry must have been accompanied by a parallel critical outlook and theory. But only few of the components of that outlook have survived. Through deduction based on the study of some surviving texts and traditions, this paper aims at pointing out the beginnings of Arabic literary criticism.

It has been shown that the highly artistic classical texts formed a fertile ground for critical studies and speculations. Literary criticism had its origins in them. The apparent developments discerned in the pre-Islamic poem support this view. Literary criticism activity started in the creative poet himself. He knew well the principles of the art of poetry and was the first critic of his own poetry. This critical activity is sometimes unseen, but it may become clear when the care which the poet lavishes on his own poetry becomes a distinctive feature, this is usually observed in the case of master craftsmen in poetry.

This self-criticism may lure the poet into becoming a full-fledged critic who explains and evaluated his own as well as other poets’ poetry. In some cases a poet becomes a self – appointed judge who dispenses critical judgements (e.g.AlNabegha).

From this keen and accurate Aristech taste and perception came the names conferred on some poets to represent a concise description of the general characteristics of their poetry (e.g.A-Muhalhil the delicate: Al-Muhabiir the refined). So do the descriptive names given to certain poems (e.g.AlYateemah the unique poem al Battarah the decisive poem).


When we look into the few surviving critical texts we find that they touch upon some essential principles in literary criticism. The texts we have may, on the bassis of these principles, be divided into the following:

  1. precise signification of poetic diction, or the poet’s relation to the things named by language.
  2. Criticism of meaning at various levels: its truthfulness, validity, suitability to the general context, of conformity or non-conformity to established traditions.
  3. Relation between artistic expression and social orientation or social traditions, when the critic requests that the poet should submit to the signification traditions established in his community.
  4. Their concept of imagination and exaggeration: a discussion of what they named “lying” or exaggeration.
  5. Comparing similar poems (al-Nathaer) or similar experiments in poetry.
  6. Attempting to determine the general characteristics of poet’s poetry.

In the light of these elements and principles. The critical texts have been analysed and their implications pointed out. This has led to the obvious conclusion, namely, that these early observations were the natural preliminary steps towards the rise of the subsequent movement in literary criticism.




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