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Tracing Poetics Beyond the Eurocentric Tradition (Arabic, Chinese, Sanskrit, Persian, Turkish,...)

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Organizer: Maha AbdelMegeed

Co-Organizer: Betty Rosen and Lubna Safi

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This panel is a response to the dominant assumption that there is an unproblematic genealogy from Greek poetics and rhetoric to “pre-modern” and “modern” European poetics, one that marks the rich traditions of Arabic, Persian, Sanskrit, Chinese, and other bodies of figurative and aesthetic thought as other even to the modern literature of the Global South and certainly to “literature” writ large. Instead, we will imagine and attempt to mobilize the affordances of these many non-Greek traditions to confront, complicate, and rethink notions of belonging and exclusion, the classical and the modern, the traditional and the innovative.
 Specifically, we want to propose as our starting point the pre-Islamic Arabic poetic trope of the rusūm, often translated as the “traces” of an abandoned campsite, which prompt the poet to reflect on his departed beloved and set out across the desert toward distraction and, ultimately, catharsis. Thus we might say that the traces indicate the beginning of an emotional and intellectual afterlife for the once localizable, embodied experiences of social life, passion, and mourning.
       We mobilize the figure of the rusūm not to insert the Arabic tradition into the power vacuum left by a withdrawal of the hegemonic Greco-European poetics; rather, we hope to amplify perspectives from diverse traditions, undominated by any one. In this, the figure of the rusūm might function for us in two useful ways: first, as example, providing one possible model for considering the afterlife of classical poetics in later texts generally (as traces); and second, as methodology, modeling how we might mobilize images from a classical tradition to theorize that tradition’s relationship to its later incarnations on its own terms.
       We welcome any relevant papers, including those that address the following:
*In what forms and functions do pre-modern poetic tropes and concepts reappear in modern texts (whether in the same or different languages)?
*What do writers and thinkers (across periods) see as the relationship between pre-modern and modern poetics, within a region or across regions? Does recentering the conversation to welcome thought from Africa and Asia require that we endorse or reassess dyads such as “classical/modern” and “traditional/innovative”? If so, how?
*How can we employ the figure of the trace to rethink the relationship between a culture’s literary/aesthetic past and present? To what extent do a pre-modern culture’s literary ideas “belong” within the poetic thinking of its linguistic and intellectual descendents (e.g. Persian poetics in modern Turkish literature)? 
*How might we fruitfully incorporate pre-modern aesthetic thought into work on contemporary poetics? Do Arabic poetics, for instance, have anything to offer work on Chinese literature? How might doing this work together assist us in (and beyond) provincializing European poetics?

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