Panegyric poetry, in both Arabic and Persian, was one of the most important genres of literature in the medieval Middle East and Central Asia. Jocelyn Sharlet argues that panegyric poetry is important not only because it provides a commentary on society and culture in the medieval Middle East, but also because panegyric writing was one of the key means for individuals to gain social mobility and standing during this period. This is particularly so within the context of patronage, a central feature of social order during these times. Sharlet places the medieval Arabic and Persian panegyric firmly within its cultural context, and identifies it as a crucial way of gaining entry to and movement within this patronage network. Combining medieval poetry, stories, criticism and ethics in Arabic and Persian, Poetry and Patronage in the Islamic World argues that poetry was often used to explore the uncertainty and flexibility of patronage, and to define a cosmopolitan, professional identity that was a key means to gain social mobility. This was particularly crucial given the need to integrate people from diverse backgrounds into the Arabic and Islamic culture of the Abbasid Empire, based in the Middle East, and the Persian and Islamic culture of the Ghaznavid Empire, based in Central Asia. Jocelyn Sharlet discusses medieval perspectives on the problem of poetry, and examines a wide range of stories about poets dealing with the uncertainties of literary patronage. Based on panegyric poetry by the Arabic poets Abu Tammam and al-Buhturi and the Persian poets Farrokhi and Onsori, this book demonstrates that risk in patronage is not restricted to major crises, and shows how uncertainty defines the portrayal of love and political relationships in this poetry. By linking the elaborate rhetoric of panegyric to the broader themes of observation, evaluation, communication and exchange, and how these themes illustrate the uncertainty and flexibility of patronage, this is an important contribution to the fields of pre-modern Middle Eastern and Central Asian literature and culture.
Patronage and Poetry in the Islamic World
Social Mobility and Status in the Medieval Middle East and Central Asia