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Rediscovering the Islamic ClassicsHow Editors and Print Culture Transformed an Intellectual Tradition$
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Ahmed El Shamsy

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780691174563

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691174563.001.0001

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Critique and Philology

Critique and Philology

(p.199) Chapter 8 Critique and Philology
Rediscovering the Islamic Classics

Ahmed El Shamsy

Princeton University Press

This chapter shows how European hegemony and aggressive Westernization in the former Ottoman Empire formed the backdrop for the next stage in the evolution of Arabic print culture: fierce debates over philology and the critical method. What was at stake was how to critically read the Arabo-Islamic heritage that was becoming accessible at an accelerating pace through the printing press—how to assess the authenticity of writings attributed to particular periods and authors and how to draw on these materials judiciously in order to reconstruct the historical and literary past. The site of these debates was the growing corpus of printed classical works. Even the opponents of the editing and publishing vanguard could no longer ignore the influence of this literature, and accordingly the divergent arguments were phrased overwhelmingly in the idiom of philology. The ensuing philological advancements were brought to bear not only on the juxtaposition of Orientalist and indigenous philology but also on substantial religious issues of the time, including grave visitation, theological tenets, and legal debates.

Keywords:   Westernization, Ottoman Empire, philology, critical method, Arabo-Islamic heritage, authenticity, printed classical works, Orientalist philology, indigenous philology, Arabic print culture

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