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The Culture of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society$
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Adrian Gully

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780748633739

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: March 2012

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748633739.001.0001

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The Power of the Pen and the Primacy of Script

The Power of the Pen and the Primacy of Script

(p.50) Chapter 3 The Power of the Pen and the Primacy of Script
The Culture of Letter-Writing in Pre-Modern Islamic Society

Adrian Gully

Edinburgh University Press

While the rich oral tradition of Arab and Islamic society will never be totally replaced, there came a point in Islamic society when the written word assumed increasing significance and influence. This chapter examines how the power of pen prevailed in the domain of communication in pre-modern society, examining the special status of writing and epistolary prose within the secretarial realm, as represented in one particular work of the 5th/11th century. This work is the Maw Add al-BayAm Ibn Halaf, regarded as one of the best scholarly representations of the transition from a predominantly oral culture to an oral-writerly one in the pre-modern Islamic society. This transition from oral culture to textual culture as exemplified by Ibn Halaf forms one of the main points of discussion in the chapter.

Keywords:   power of pen, writing, epistolary prose, pre-modern society, al-BayAm, Ibn Halaf

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