This introduction describes the history and contents of ḤikāyatAbī al-Qāsim and its reception among modern scholars, as well as the approach and methodology of the present study. The authorship and date of composition of the Ḥikāya are uncertain, though it was probably written in the 11th-century, and is attributed to the otherwise unknown al-Azdī. It survives in only one known manuscript, and the history of its transmission is a mystery. After it was first edited by Adam Mez, the Ḥikāya was deemed by many early scholars to be too obscene to be worthy of serious scholarly attention, but it was also hailed as a unique attempt at literary realism or mimesis, and thus a potentially valuable source of information about 11th-century Baghdad. Scholars and readers, however, have struggled to articulate the conflict between realism and grotesque exaggeration in this work, as well as its potential relationship to classical Greek literary models. The present study will attempt to cast these issues in a new, comparative, deconstructive light, thereby introducing a new method of reading Arabic literature in dialogue with Classical literature.
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