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Re: [XTalk] Arabists' Challenge to Bailey's *haflat samar* Interpretation

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  • Theodore Weeden
    ... Thank you, John. I hope to be able to get it finished and in publication. ... Thank you for drawing my attention to Naddaff s work and the Miquel quote
    Message 1 of 16 , Sep 12, 2006
      John Poirier wrote on September 08, 2006:

      > Ted,
      > I look forward to reading your finished article.

      Thank you, John. I hope to be able to get it finished and in publication.

      > Your reference to the *samar* roots of the 1001 Nights reminded me of a
      > book
      > that I read years ago: Sandra Naddaff's *Arabesque: Narrative Structure
      > and
      > the Aesthetics of Repetition in 1001 Nights* (Evanston, IL: Northwestern
      > Univ. Press, 1991). On p. 65 of that book, Naddaff writes:
      > One should begin at the beginning, in this case, outsdide the text,
      > and
      > remember that the earliest version of the *1001 Nights* was an aurally
      > intended work perrformed before a live audience. André Miquel notes
      > that it was possibly told as part of the *samar*, "cette pratique
      > quasi
      > institutionnêlle de la culture arabo-musulmane classique: la
      > conversation
      > nocturne. . . . Le *samar* est d'ordinaire ce qui clôt la journée
      > active,
      > avant le repos nocturne, et l'on a toutes raisons de penser que c'est
      > de
      > ce type-là que relève le *samar* du conteur, qu'on l'imagine au milieu
      > d'un groupe restreint ou sur la place publique." The storyteller
      > nightly
      > tells his story about a woman who nightly tells her stories and who,
      > like
      > him, depends upon the approval of her audience in order to continue
      > the narrative act and, ultimately, in order to stay alive. The
      > pattern
      > persists.
      > The French quotation is from André Miquel, *Ajib et Gharib: Un conte des
      > "Mille et une nuits"* (Paris, 1978) 225-26.

      Thank you for drawing my attention to Naddaff's work and the Miquel quote
      with reference to *samar*. This all is consistent with what Arabic
      authorities and Middle East people I have interviewed have shared with me
      with respect to the historical character and purpose of *haflat samar*.

      > As for how or why Bailey fudges the description of what a *samar* is, I
      > think that you're seeing an almost subconscious mechanism by which the
      > proponents of a particular theory smuggle their views into their offered
      > readings of a body of knowledge that they calculate their audience to hold
      > no expertise in.


      I am not prepared to say why and how Bailey arrived at a different
      interpretation of the character and purpose of a *haflat samar* than appears
      to be widely held by others. Naddaff and Miquel are yet two more examples
      of this widely held view. For all the reasons I have cited in posts
      regarding this thread, it is difficult for me to understand how oral
      societies in Southern Egypt would, per Bailey, hold such a radically
      different and extraordinarily atypical view of their *hafalat samar*,
      namely, as almost nightly meetings with the indispensable agenda of
      preserving the historical authenticity of their oral tradition about John
      Hogg, their missionary founder. Largely illiterate, it is difficult for me
      to understand how such societies would draw a connection, as Bailey does,
      between the Hebrew *shamar* ("preserve") and the Arabic *samar*, and thus
      arrived at an idiosyncratic meaning of *haflat samar* as a "party for
      preservation," per Bailey.

      > This happens all the time when preachers, with no seminary
      > education and no facility in Hebrew or Greek beyond their ability to use
      > Strong's concordance, smuggle their pet readings into the biblical
      > lexicson,
      > creating ridiculously long and theologically technical definitions of
      > Hebrew
      > and Greek words There is no doubt that they are smuggling their views
      > into
      > those words, yet I would venture that very few of them that do that sort
      > of
      > thing are at all aware of what they are doing. It's as if one side of
      > their
      > brain is fooling the other side. (Unfortunately, his sort of thing also
      > happens at the highest levels of academia--e.g., it is the most generous
      > explanation for the postliberals' revisionist history of hermeneutics.
      > All
      > one needs to do to deflate Hans Frei's claims about pre-Enlightenment
      > hermeneutics is to read the hermeneutical programs of pre-Enlightenment
      > figures.)

      What you describe can and does happen, unfortunately. Not only should we
      be cognizant and wary of such with respect to others, but we need to remain
      vigilant and self-critically honest with respect to ourselves on this issue.

      Ted Weeden
      Theodore J. Weeden, Sr,
      Fairport, NY
      Ph.D., Claremont Graduate University
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