Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded: Volume One

Yusuf al-Shirbini, Humphrey Davies, Youssef Rakha

Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded: Volume One
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Brains Confounded by the Ode of Abu Shaduf Expounded: Volume One

Yusuf al-Shirbini, Humphrey Davies, Youssef Rakha

Witty, bawdy, and vicious, Yusuf al-Shirbini’s Brains Confounded pits the coarse rural masses against the refined urban population. In Volume One, al-Shirbini describes the three rural types -peasant cultivator, village man-of-religion, and rural dervish-offering anecdotes testifying to the ignorance, dirtiness, and criminality of each. In Volume Two, he presents a hilarious parody of the verse-and-commentary genre so beloved by scholars of his day, with a 47-line poem supposedly written by a peasant named Abu Shaduf, who charts the rise and fall of his fortunes. Wielding the scholarly tools of elite literature, al-Shirbini responds to the poem with derision and ridicule, dotting his satire with digressions into love, food, and flatulence. Volume Two of Brains Confounded is followed by Risible Rhymes, a concise text that includes a comic disquisition on rural verse, mocking the pretensions of uneducated poets from Egypt’s countryside. Risible Rhymes also examines various kinds of puzzle poems, which were another popular genre of the day, and presents a debate between scholars over a line of verse by the fourth/tenth-century poet al-Mutanabbi. Together, Brains Confounded and Risible Rhymes offer intriguing insight into the intellectual concerns of Ottoman Egypt, showcasing the intense preoccupation with wordplay, grammar, and stylistics and shedding light on the literature of the era. An English-only edition.

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