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The Reader in al-JāḥiẓThe Epistolary Rhetoric of an Arabic Prose Master$
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Thomas Hefter

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780748692743

Published to Edinburgh Scholarship Online: January 2015

DOI: 10.3366/edinburgh/9780748692743.001.0001

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The Addressee and the Occasion of Writing

The Addressee and the Occasion of Writing

(p.34) 1 The Addressee and the Occasion of Writing
The Reader in al-Jāḥiẓ

Thomas Hefter

Edinburgh University Press

Opening with a discussion of the challenges that all writers face in justifying their work to their audience, this chapter suggests how the epistolary frame can often be seen as al-Jāḥiẓ’s creative way of presenting the occasion of his writing a text without appearing confrontational toward his readership or defensive in the face of opposing views or prior writings on the topic. In certain texts, the addressee whom al-Jāḥiẓ claims to have asked him to write on the issue at hand is an exaggerated portrait of a misguided or overly enthusiastic individual whose questions, in themselves, reflect the dangers posed by the views he will argue against. This device gently prompts the audience to distance themselves from the pitfalls of the addressee’s approach. It also allows al-Jāḥiẓ to illustrate the errors and confusions caused by the opinions of his rivals in a forceful way without, however, projecting vulnerability to them onto his intended readership. Alternatively, al-Jāḥiẓ uses the addressees in other texts to avoid creating an atmosphere of superiority or confrontation: the addressee is presented as a figure who evokes the audience’s admiration and, yet, is in need of the author’s knowledge and advice for specific reasons which he carefully delineates.

Keywords:   Arabic Essays, Sectarian polemic, Advice literature, dialogism

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