Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations

First Advisor

Roger M. Allen


This study investigates the prosimetric style of a renowned contribution to Arabic narrative, the Maqâmât of Badî' al-zamân al-Hamadhânî (358-398/969-1008). Al-Hamadhânî's Maqâmât corpus contains fifty-two short tales that are centered on the words and deeds of a fictitious beggar hero. They are also characterized by a consistent alternation of rhymed prose (saj') and poetry. These two distinct features of the maqâmah genre were faithfully imitated by al-Hamadhânî's successors in the following millennium.

The origins of the maqâmah genre have sparked heated debates among scholars of Arabic literature. Its longevity and versatility also await an explanation. This comprehensive and comparative analysis of the Maqâmât's prose (both rhymed and plain) and poetry can provide new angles through which to consider these issues. By introducing the transfer of function/form, we argue that the prosimetric style could have been affected by the functions that the hero inherited from pre-Islamic soothsayers, who were famed for their linguistic virtuosity in both modes of expression. Analogues from the ancient Chinese, Indian, and Greek literary traditions not only suggest the maqâmah's intrinsic performability but also highlight the role of admonishers, i.e., heirs of soothsayers/shamans and performers of prosimetra in these literary traditions. The maqâmah's homage to previous Arabic genres such as annals, anecdotes, and mimes, and its impact on so-called modern drama and fiction can both be interpreted by reference to the continuity of generations of admonishers. A detailed analysis of the maqâmah's final section (envoi), episode proper, and opening formula illustrates the uniqueness of its prosimetric style which links the Arabic genre's genesis to possible Indo-Iranian and Greek inspirations.