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Ali Ahmad Hussein’s book studies the rhetorical texture in two traditional tripartite poems: one from the pre-Islamic period, composed by ʿAlqama l-Faḥl, and one from the early ʿAbbāsid era, composed by Bashshār b. Burd. The poems have the same structure and deal with the same themes (love, camel-section, and praise or self praise). They also contain almost the same number of verses. A fundamental question is raised: What are the rhetorical figures on which each of the two poets depended in order to compose his poem? This, in turn, leads to a broader question: How different was the badīʿ style (“the rhetorical style”) in the poetry of the two aforementioned eras, assuming the two poems are representative of their times?
The book starts with a survey of the development of the classical rhetorical studies from the 2nd and the 8th century until modern times. The way classical and modern scholars used to analyze a literary text with reference to its rhetoric is also discussed. A clarification of some problematic issues related to the rhetorical terms used in this book follows, before the rhetoric of the two poems is analyzed in detail. The study ends with a discussion of the main thesis: What are the differences in the use of rhetoric between the two poems?