PISC Paper nº3: “Ripple Effects of Arabization. Coptic History and Memory in late-medieval Egypt”
Tamer el-Leithy, Institute for Advanced Study
December 5, 2023 · 6:00 pm—7:30 pm · 202 Jones Hall
Near Eastern Studies Department; Department of Religion; Near Eastern Studies Program
“This paper, part of my book project which traces the cultural consequences of Arabization in late-medieval Egypt, wrestles with the tidal changes in Coptic historical writing, from its initial Arabization, 11th–14th centuries. First, I consider the new features and rhetorical styles of the original Arabic sections of the History of the Patriarchs. I briefly situate these trends vis-à-vis contemporary developments in Islamic (Arabic and Persian) and Syriac Christian historical writing. Second, I discuss the Arabic chronicle by the lay Coptic bureaucrat al-Mufaḍḍal ibn Abī l-Faḍāʾil (d. 1358), specifically its coverage of the Damascus fire of 1340, when Syrian Christians were charged with arson. This chronicle marks the end of Coptic chronicles. In the final section, I consider the setting and possible reasons for this abrupt end of an erstwhile thriving genre. With this eclipse of prose historical writing, martyrology and hagiography become the primary modes of addressing the Coptic past, the vehicles of social memory and communal identity.”
The Princeton Islamic Studies Colloquium (PISC) is a forum at Princeton University for workshopping students’ and guest scholars’ works-in-progress in Islamic Studies and related fields. Co-sponsored by the Center for Collaborative History, the Committee for the Study of Late Antiquity, and the Humanities Council.