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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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Epistolary Confrontations and Dialectics of Parody

Epistolary Confrontations and Dialectics of Parody

(p.77) 2 Epistolary Confrontations and Dialectics of Parody
The Reader in al-Jāḥiẓ

Thomas Hefter

Edinburgh University Press

This chapter explores how al-Jāḥiẓ in some texts stages a heated confrontation with the addressee, who is often portrayed as having taken an unreasonable stance on the issue with which the work deals. Arguing against him, al-Jāḥiẓ adopts an equally unreasonable stance from a conflicting point of view. The chapter argues that in such cases the reader is prompted to sense the irony and arrive for himself at a sensible and moderate position between the extremes represented by the addressee, on one hand, and al-Jāḥiẓ’s own self-parodying persona, on the other. This sort of ironic debate is especially prominent in al-Jāḥiẓ’s works on specific crafts or occupations, and reasons are suggested as to why his theological conception of a divine plan to create harmony through diversity in human preferences leads to rhetorical difficulties for which this doubly parodic technique is helpful.

Keywords:   Parody, Double-voiced discourse, Occupations in Islamic civilization, Irony

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