Thu 8 October 2015 | Leiden-Aramco Lecture on Arabic Language and Culture | Speaker: Geert Jan van Gelder

On Thursday 8 October 2015, professor Geert Jan van Gelder (University of Oxford) delivered the Leiden-Aramco Lecture on Arabic Language and Culture entitled "Antidotes and Anecdotes: A Literary History of Medicine from 13th-Century Syria." Time: 16.15 hours. Venue: Large Auditorium, Academy Building (Rapenburg 73, Leiden). There was a reception after the lecture.

Antidotes and Anecdotes: A Literary History of Medicine from 13th-Century Syria

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Purchase--Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, S1986.97a.

Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: Purchase--Smithsonian Unrestricted Trust Funds, Smithsonian Collections Acquisition Program, and Dr. Arthur M. Sackler, S1986.97a.

One of the most informative and delightful works in Classical Arabic is a large tome by a Syrian physician, Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿah, who died in AD 1270. The rhyming Arabic title translates approximately as Choice Reports on the Classes of Physicians.  Ibn Abī Uṣaybiʿah  compiled accounts of 442 individual physicians. After an introduction on how medicine as an art and craft arose in human society, the author devotes chapters on the individual physicians, from the ancient Greeks (Hippocrates, Aristotle, Galen) until his own time. The book is the oldest known book on medical history and is a very important source for our knowledge of the Hellenic tradition in Islam and the history of science. Also, it is an entertaining work of literature, for it is full of anecdotes, stories and poetry. The book contains soms 3,600 lines of verse, sometimes on medicine, but often on all kind of different topics and themes. Serious scholars have considered the poetry as irritating, encumbering and superfluous ballast, unworthy of study. Geert Jan van Gelder proved these assumptions to be wrong, by discussing precisely the literary character of the book, focusing on the very entertaining and often witty stories and anecdotes in the book.


Professor Geert Jan van Gelder

Geert Jan van Gelder (b. Amsterdam, 1947) studied Semitic Languages in Amsterdam and Leiden. He was Lecturer in Arabic at the University of Groningen (1975–1998), Laudian Professor of Arabic, University of Oxford (1998–2012), and is currently Research Associate (Oxford) on a project with others involving a new edition and complete English annotated translation of Ibn Abī Uṣaybi‘ah’s Book of Physicians (ʿUyūn al-anbāʾ). He has published widely on classical Arabic literature. Among his books are Beyond the Line: Classical Arabic Literary Critics on the Coherence and Unity of the Poem (1982); The Bad and the Ugly: Attitudes Towards Invective Poetry (Hijā’) in Classical Arabic Literature  (1989); Of Dishes and Discourse: Classical Arabic Literary Representations of Food (2000); Close Relationships: Incest and Inbreeding in Classical Arabic Literature (2005); Sound and Sense in Classical Arabic Poetry (2012); Classical Arabic Literature: A Library of Arabic Literature Anthology (2013); Abū l-ʿAlāʾ al-Maʿarrī, The Epistle of Forgiveness (Risālat al-Ghufrān), ed. and trans., with Gregor Schoeler (2013–14).


The Leiden-Aramco Lectures on Arabic Language and Culture

To celebrate Leiden's long and deep tradition in Arabic studies, LUCIS organises the Leiden-Aramco Lectures on Arabic Language and Culture to celebrate Leiden's long and deep tradition in Arabic studies. Three lectures took place: 

  • Petra Sijpesteijn: "The Wisdom of the Arabs. Four Hundred Years of Cross-Cultural Engagement" (4 February 2013)

  • James Montgomery: "On Hedgehogs, Foxes and Magpies, and Why the World Should Read Classical Arabic Poetry" (12 February 2015)

  • Geert Jan van Gelder: "Antidotes and Anecdotes: A Literary History of Medicine from 13th-Century Syria" (8 October 2015).

Wit and Wisdom in Classical Arabic Literature

The three Leiden-Aramco Lectures on Arabic Language and Culture by Petra Sijpesteijn, James Montgomery and Geert Jan van Gelder have been compiled into one publication, called "The Wit and Wisdom in Classical Arabic Literature". Everybody who joined the lecture, received a free copy of this publication.

This lecture was made possible with the generous support from the European headquarters of Aramco, a world leader in integrated energy.

Laatst Gewijzigd: 20-10-2015