The Poetics from Athens to al-Andalus: Ibn Rushd's Grounds for Comparison
Modern Philology 112.1 (2014): 1-24.
24 Pages Posted: 12 Jan 2015
Date Written: January 10, 2015
The Middle Commentary on Aristotle's Poetics by the Andalusian philosopher Ibn Rushd (d. 1198) has been treated by commentators as wide-ranging as Borges, Renan, and Kilito as an exemplary case of the failure of translation. Critics who presume Ibn Rushd's failure often concentrate on his rendering of Aristotle's tragedy and comedy by praise (madīh) and blame (hijā’). Taking account of Ibn Rushd's stated intention of using Aristotle‘s Poetics to facilitate comparative literary analysis, I argue here that far from representing a failure of comprehension, the rendering of tragedy and comedy as praise and blame respectively offered the Arabic philosopher a useful means of conceiving literary form outside the confines of a single literary tradition. Contrary to recent arguments in contemporary translation theory, Ibn Rushd's methodical appropriation of Aristotle's treatise suggests that at certain cultural junctures pursuing the path of fluency and localization can accomplish more than literalist foreignization.
Keywords: cross-cultural poetics, translation, reception, Greek, Arabic, literary theory, mistranslation, Borges, Ibn Rushd, Aristotle
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