Inquiries into Proto-World Literatures

The Challenging “Literary Fate” of the Quatrain across the Persian and Arabic Literary Tradition

  • Chiara Fontana Sapienza University of Rome - Italian Institute of Oriental Studies ISO
Keywords: Persian and Arabic Literatures, Rhetorical and Metrical Studies, Comparative Philology, Quatrains, Rubā‛iyyāt, World literature


Western studies on Persian metrical system debate the linguistic origins of quatrains, (Per. robāʽiyyāt - Ar. rubāʽiyyāt) in Arabic, and regard prosodic Persian schemes independently of Arabic counterparts, despite reciprocally influenced metrical patterns. Attempts to dismantle Arabo-centric critical inferences about Persian metres are largely prosodic observations of the robāʽi/rubāʽī, thus neglecting their ontological evolution from a metrical scheme into an aesthetically experimental frame in Persian and Arabic poetry. This study closely investigates the spread of robāʽī/rubāʽī from Persian to Arabic literature employing a holistic culturally embedded methodology to reread their linkages in global terms, as an example of an inherited “Proto-World Literature”.

Author Biography

Chiara Fontana, Sapienza University of Rome - Italian Institute of Oriental Studies ISO

Chiara Fontana has a PhD in Arabic Literature and Linguistics at Sapienza University of Rome. Her thesis was entitled A Linguistic, Rhetorical and Metric Analysis of Najīb Surūr’s Experimental Works (February 2018). Since 2014, she has taught and continues her research at institutions in Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia where she is currently based. In 2017, she received an Italian Ministry of Research scholarship to conduct a pilot study on Rhetorical/ Poetic Forms in Southern Tunisian and Western Libyan Dialects. She is also an associate member of the research boards for ERC project GlobaLit: Caucasus Literatures Compared at the University of Birmingham and for the Leverhulme-funded research project, A Sorcerer‘s Handbook, at the University of Exeter.

How to Cite
Fontana, C. “Inquiries into Proto-World Literatures: The Challenging ‘Literary Fate’ of the Quatrain across the Persian and Arabic Literary Tradition”. Middle East - Topics & Arguments, Vol. 13, Dec. 2019, pp. 38-57, doi:10.17192/meta.2019.13.8088.