Africa at Noon on March 13, 2013

Seers, Rogues, and Prophets in North African Fiction

Samuel England
Department of African Languages & Literature
University of Wisconsin-Madison

12:00pm, 206 Ingra­ham Hall, 1155 Obser­va­tory Drive, Madi­son, WI


Samuel England is Assistant Professor of Arabic at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His main interests are Classical Arabic poetry and adab, as well as Romance-language lyric of Iberia. He teaches Classical and modern Arabic literature, and is currently working on a book manuscript comparing the court cultures of the late ‘Abbasid Empire and thirteenth-century Castile.


In this presentation Samuel England examines North African treatments of Classical Arabic narrative during the twentieth century, specifically Prophetic anecdotes and the fictional maqamat (often translated as ‘séances’). Mahmud al-Mas‘adi, Tunisian author, educator, and political official, caused controversy by using the settings and personages of the hadith – reports of the Prophet Muhammad’s actions and sayings – in a fictional format. Although al-Mas‘adi defended himself by taking refuge in obscure and sometimes fabricated accounts of Islamic intellectual history, here England will argue that his writing itself shows the intertwined nature of narrative techniques in the Classical tradition.