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Title: From person to persona : portraits of scholars in medieval Arabic biographical dictionaries
Author: Osti, Letizia
ISNI:       0000 0004 2668 0980
Awarding Body: University of St Andrews
Current Institution: University of St Andrews
Date of Award: 2001
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This thesis proposes a methodology for the analysis of medieval Arabic biographical dictionaries. This genre is distinctive of medieval Arabic literature; modern scholarship has investigated its origins and motivations, and has widely used it as a reference tool. However, only recently have scholars considered the value of biographical dictionaries as original creations, rather than mechanical compilations, and their role in shaping our perception of the past. After a review of recent scholarship, this thesis proposes a definition of the genre, and develops an approach to the sources which combines methods used for early Islamic history (the so-called "literary approach") with quantitative history, usually applied to post-`Abbasid periods. This approach is tested on six biographical dictionaries belonging to various fields of scholarship, times of writing or geographical locations of the writer, and on the different ways in which they describe the same group of people: the scholars operating in Baghdad between ca. 892/279 and 946/334. The background for my work is a prosopography, which I have created in the form of a computer database, including all the people of this period mentioned by my sources. On this basis, I devote one section to the comparison of structure, method and criteria of each author. I then select a smaller number of scholars, who appear most often in the sources, and follow their fortune throughout several centuries, thus highlighting the processes through which some have become legendary, some have been almost forgotten, and some are famous for their eccentricity, rather than their science. The three case studies pose several questions on our perception of the past and how the medieval sources have filtered it. These questions are provisionally answered in the conclusion, where the possible future of the research is also outlined.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: JISC Digital Islam
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available