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Essays in Arabic Literary Biography Vol. 1 (925–1350) is the first in a series of three works* that select 40 authors from a particular time period in Arabic literary history and invite scholars with specialized expertise to contribute biographical essays on them. The tenth through twelfth centuries was a period when Arab Islamic culture was experiencing dramatic growth and the entire Mediterranean area – extending from the Iberian Peninsula in the West to the banks of the Sind River in the East – came increasingly under its sway. The Islamic world had assimilated and consolidated a variety of influences from earlier times and other places, and now major intellectuals were turning their attention to producing new responses to the changed environment around them. These included innovations in the forms of literature, and engagement with new themes and ideas.
The volume edited by Terri DeYoung and Mary St. Germain includes essays on Hispano-Arab authors as well as those writing in various capitals in the Arab East, those who wrote in other languages besides Arabic and those who were inspired to bring new literary approaches to religious sensibility, including members of the Shiite and Sufi communities alongside the more numerically dominant Sunnis. Every essay is self-contained, beginning with a list of the author’s complete works (and translations of them), and then proceeding to chronicle the subject’s life through a thorough examination of the principal works attributed to him. Each essay concludes with a selected bibliography of reference works.