'The Sublime and the Beautiful': William Jones on Ancient Arabian Poetry
Jalal Uddin Khan
February 16, 2011
The IUP Journal of English Studies, Vol. V, No. 4, pp. 54-65, December 2010
William Jones was one of the great Orientalists of all time. His academically and intellectually informed Orientalism began with his translation of ancient Arabian poetry, especially The Muallakat, which he found to be both beautiful and sublime. To him, the natural, as opposed to imitative and artificial, description of ancient Arab tribes and their tribal conflicts and loyalties, and their normal ways of life including love and duty, and horses and camels against the backdrop of a dry and dreary landscape was deeply rhapsodic and expressive. More specifically, it was the desert plains and stony Arabias that Jones found beautiful as well as sublime. Following Edmund Burke, who is credited to have popularized those aesthetic notions/categories after the middle of the 18th century, Jones, about a decade later, applied them in his study of ancient Arabian poetry containing fresh descriptions of man and nature and recommended the Eastern models including the Persian and the Indian to instill new life into what he thought was the stale and hackneyed condition of European literature.
Accepted Paper Series
Date posted: February 17, 2011
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