Geert Jan van Gelder


Research Fellow; Professor Emeritus, Arabic

Faculty / College Address:

Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies / St John's College


Research Interests:

My research moves over a wide range of topics within Classical Arabic literature, especially belles-lettres. They include the Arabic tradition of literary criticism, poetics, rhetoric, and stylistics; the history of poetry and poetic genres; and the study of specific themes in poetry and literary prose. I tend to have a preference for less-studied, even "marginal" genres and themes.

Current Projects:

  • Poetry in historiography
  • Sound and sense in classical Arabic poetry

Courses Taught:

  • Classical Arabic poetry
  • Classical Arabic prose

Recent Publications:

  • "The Nodding Noddles, or Jolting the Yokels: A composition for marginal voices by al-Shirbini (fl. 1687)", in Robin Ostle (ed.), Marginal Voices in Literature and Society, Aix-en-Provence, 2000 [2001], pp. 49-67
  • "The Apposite Request: A small chapter in Persian and Arabic rhetoric", Edebiyat N.S. 12:1 (2001) 1-13
  • "Mirror for Princes or Vizor for Viziers: The twelfth-century Arabic popular encyclopedia Mufid al-`ulum and its relationship with the anonymous Persian Bahr al-fawa'id", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 64:3 (2001) 313-338
  • "Mudrik al-Shaybani's poem on a Christian boy: bad taste or harmless wit?", in Gert Borg and Ed the Moor (eds), Representations of the Divine in Arabic Poetry, Amsterdam-Atlanta, 2001, pp. 49-70
  • "Poetry for Easy Listening: insijam and related concepts in Ibn Hijja's Khizanat al-adab", Mamluk Studies Review, 7 (2003) 31-48
  • "A conversation on contemporary politics in the twelfth century: 'al-Maqama al-Baghdadiyya' by al-Wahrani (d. 575/1179)", in Chase F. Robinson (ed.), Texts, Documents and Artefacts: Islamic Studies in Honour of D.S. Richards, Leiden, 2003, pp. 103-119
  • "Beautifying the Ugly and Uglifying the Beautiful: The Paradox in Classical Arabic Literature", Journal of Semitic Studies, 48:2 (2003) 321-351.
  • "To eat or not to Eat Elephant: A Travelling Story in Arabic and Persian Literature", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 66:3 (2003) 419-430.
  • "The Classical Arabic Canon of Polite (and Impolite) Literature", in Gillis J. Dorleijn and Herman L. J. Vanstiphout (eds), Cultural Repertoires: Structure, Function and Dynamics, Leuven: Peeters, 2003, pp45-57.
  • "Forbidden Firebrands: Frivolous iqtibas (Quotation from the Qur'an)", Quaderni di Studi Arabi, 20-21 (2002-2003) 3-16.
  • Slave-Girl Lost and Regained: Transformations of a Story", in Marvels and Tales: Journal of Fairy-Tale Studies, 18:2 (2004) 201-217.
  • "Poetry in Historiography: Some Observations", in Miklós Maróth (ed.), Problems in Arabic Literature, Piliscsaba, 2004, pp1-13.
  • "Poetry and the Arabian Nights", in Ulrich Marzolph and Richard van Leeuwen, The Arabian Nights Encyclopedia, Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-Clio, 2004, pp13-17.
  • "Muhammed b. Sayf al-Din, Ibn Aydamir", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, vol. xiii (Supplement, 2004), p.635.
  • "Muhdathun", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, vol. xiii (Supplement, 2004), pp 637-640.
  • "Nazm. 1. In metrical speech", in Encyclopaedia of Islam, New Edition, vol. xiii (Supplement, 2004), p.668.
  • "Incest and Inbreeding in Islam", in Encyclopaedia Iranica, vol. xiii fasc. 1 (2004), pp4-6.
  • "Incidental Arabic Poetry", in Emilie Savage-Smith, A Descriptive Catalogue of Oriental Manuscripts at St John's College, Oxford, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005, pp129-146.
  • Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature, London: I.B. Tauris, 2005. x, 278pp.
  • "Bashshar b. Burd", in Shawkat M. Toorawa & Michael Cooperson (eds), Arabic Literary Culture, 500-925, Detroit etc., 2005 (Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol.311), pp91-97.
  • "Dhu al-Rummah (Abu al-Harith Ghaylan ibn 'Uqbah)", in Shawkat M. Toorawa & Michael Cooperson (eds), Arabic Literary Culture, 500-925, Detroit etc., 2005 (Dictionary of Literary Biography, vol. 311), pp108-113.
  • Wen-chin Ouyang & Geert Jan van Gelder (eds.), New Perspectives on Arabian Nights: Ideological Variation and Narrative Horizons, London & New York: Routledge, 2005. xv, 143 pp.
  • “Edible Fathers and Mothers: Arabic kunyas used for Food”, in Manuela Marín & Cristina de la Puente, El banquete de las palabras: La alimentación de los textos árabes, Madrid: Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, 2005 (Estudios árabes e islámicos, Monografías, 10), pp. 105-120.
  • “Mawalī and Arabic Poetry: Some Observations”, in Monique Bernards & John Nawas (eds), Patronate and Patronage in Early and Classical Islam, Leiden: Brill, 2005 (Islamic History and Civilization: Studies and Texts, 61), pp. 349-369.
  • “Ibn Ḥ ijjah al- Ḥ amawī”, The Chicago On-Line Encyclopedia of Mamluk Studies (3750 words)
  • “An Experiment with Beeston, Labīd and Baššar: On Translating Classical Arabic Verse”, Proceedings of the Seminar for Arabian Studies, 36 (2006) 7-15 (Papers from the thirty-ninth meeting of the Seminar for Arabian Studies held in London, 21-23 July 2005).
  • “The Anatomy of Anonymity: The poet Anon. and his reception in Classical Arabic literature”, in Angelika Neuwirth and Andreas Christian Islebe (eds.), Reflections on Reflections: Near Eastern writers reading literature; dedicated to Renate Jacobi, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2006 (Literaturen im Kkontext, vol. 23), pp. 17-34.
  • (in press) Takhyīl: The Imaginary in Classical Arabic Poetics. Volume 1: Texts, selected, translated and annotated by Geert Jan van Gelder and Marlé Hammond; Volume 2: Studies, edited by Geert Jan van Gelder and Marlé Hammond. Oxford: Oxbow (E.J.W. Gibb Memorial Trust).
  • (in press) “Buffoons High and Low, or Marginal People at the Centre” [to appear in proceedings of workshop of ESF programme “Individual and Society”, Florence, 1997]
  • (in press) “Disguises in the Maqāmāt of Ibn Nāqiyā (410-485/1020-1092)” [to appear in proceedings of workshop of ESF conference Istanbul, July 1998]
  • (in press) “Brevity and Short Stories in Classical Arabic Literature”, in a volume on Classical Arabic Narrative, ed. by Salma K. Jayyusi .
  • (in press) “Poetic License”, entry in Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics.
  • (in press) “The Antithesis of Urjūza and Badīiyyā: Two Forms of Arabic Versified Stylistics”, in M.A. Harder, A.A. MacDonald and G.J. Reinink, eds., Calliope’s Classroom: Studies in Didactic Poetry from Antiquity to the Renaissance, Leuven: Peeters.
  • (in press) “al- ‘Abbāsī”, “al-Abīwardī”, “Abū Riyāsh”, “Abū Sa‘d al-Makhzūmī”, “’Alī b. Khalaf”, “Ancients and Moderns”, “Apology”, “al-Arrajānī”, for The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Third Edition.
  • (in press) “Kitāb al-Bursān: al-Jahiz on Right- and Lefthandedness”, for the proceedings of the Beirut conference on al-Jahiz, January, 2005.
  • (in press) “Rāgeb Esfahani”, for Encyclopaedia Iranica.
  • (in press) “Al-Ya‘qūbī’s List of Poets”, for a volume with studies on al-Ya‘qūbī, ed. by Matthew Gordon.
  • (in press) “Precious Stones, Precious Words: Al-Suyûtî’s al-Maqâma al-yâqûtiyya, Translated and Annotated”, Arnoud Vrolijk & Jan P. Hogendijk (eds), O ye Gentlemen: Arabic studies on Science and Literary Culture, in Honour of Remke Kruk. Leiden: Brill, 2007, pp. 313-332.
  • (in press) “‘A Good Cause’: Fantastic Etiolog (husn'al't'ta‘līl) in Arabic Poetics”, to be included in Takhyil: The Imaginary in Classical Arabic Poetics (see above).
  • (in press) “The lamp and its Mirror Image: H āzim al-Qartājannī’s Poetry in the Light of his Path of the Eloquent and Lamp of the Lettered”, to be included in Takhyīl: The Imaginary in Classical Arabic Poetics (see above).
  • (in press) “Shihāb al-Dīn al-Khafājī”, for DLB volume on Arabic Literary Culture, 900-1700, ed. by Devin Stewart and Joseph Lowry.
  • (in press) “Amphigory and Other Nonsense in Classical Arabic Literature”, for volume (Lost in Translation) on humour and satire in Arabic, Persian and Turkish literature ed. by Louise Marlow.
  • (in press) “Wine and Women" Two lyrical Poems by āzim al-Qartājannī (d. 684/1285)”, for a Festschrift, ed. by Beatrice Gruendler and Michael Cooperson.
  • (in press) “Literary Criticism as Literature”, for volume The Evolution of Artistic Classical Arabic Prose” ed. by Vahid Behmardi and Lale Behzadi.

Full Publications

Photograph of Geert Jan Van Gelder