Julia Bray on Translating Al-Tanūkhī, ‘A Useful Thinker for Our Times’

"He doesn’t privilege the past or try to harmonize rules or role models; instead, by a leap of imagination, literary imagination, he works contemporary reality and subjectivity (very important!) into the fabric of lived faith."

The ‘1001 Nights’ Outclassed: The 10th-century Stories of Tanūkhī

"I think Tanūkhī’s stories outclass the Nightsin every way, and unlike Shahrazad, he doesn’t go on and on. His plots are brisk and varied, even though in Deliverance Follows Adversity all the stories are about someone, usually someone just like you or me, getting into some sort of tight spot in one of their less bright moments, and coming out gratefully on the other side[.]"

On Teaching with Classical Arabic Texts That ‘Capture a Sense of Marvel, Wonder, Humor, And, Above All, Adventure’

"Surely, the life of the courtesan ʿArib differs in fundamental ways from, for example, the likes of a Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, or even a Justin Bieber. But how exactly? Listening last year to a Radiolab podcast on K-Pop, I was again struck by how modern some aspects of these women’s lives were."

‘Excellence of the Arabs’: Ibn Qutaybah and the Cultural Authority of Poetry

"It was fun! And what I quite liked about it is that it was tremendously educational, and it compelled me, in having to translate these poems, to really figure out what they said, and to participate in the intellectual culture of ninth-century Iraq. One of the advantages is that, in other projects that I’m working on, I’m seeing many of these poems coming back. And now I have a much more personal relationship with the poetry."

When Arabophones Weren’t Arabs: Ibn Qutaybah and Identity Formation During the Early Period of Islam

"The book should also be interesting to  people who study medieval history of the rest of the world, because this was a time, in the post-Roman world, in which the identities of the modern European nations — the Franks, the Anglo Saxons, and even German identities — were being constructed in Europe. It’s really at the same time that Arabness was being constructed in the Middle East, so from a comparative perspective of the birth of modern nations, this book would be very helpful to people who know a lot about how Anglo Saxon identity was constructed, for instance."