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Beatrice Gruendler
Professor, Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations (Arabic)

gruendlerPhone: (203) 432-7522
Office: HGS 317

Beatrice Gruendler (D.E.U.G. Strasbourg, 1985; B.A. Tübingen, 1987; M.A. 1989, Ph.D. Harvard, 1995) is active in four areas of research: the development of Arabic script, classical Arabic poetry and its social context, the integration of modern literary theory into the study of Near Eastern literatures, and early Islamic book-culture (3rd/9th century C.E.) viewed within the history of communication.


Gruendler teaches undergraduate courses on classics of the Arabic-Islamic world in translation and, together with Colleen Manassa (NELC), a survey of Egyptian Literature from pharaonic time to the present. Together with John Darnell (NELC) and Michael Fischer (Computer Science) she offers a media history course, "From Pictograph to Pixels: Changing Ways of Human Communication." She regularly contributes guest lectures on the Koran, the Arabic ode (qasida), the love lyric (ghazal), and the 1001 Nights to the Literature Major’s course on world literatures.

Her graduate teaching comprises an introduction to the methodology of Arabic and Islamic studies and seminars on classical Arabic linguistics, literature (e.g., Layla and Majnun, Abbasid poetry and its social context, al-Mutanabbi, the Maqamat), poetics, Islamic geography, and the history of the Arabic language worldwide from the time before Islam to the present.

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She wrote her first book on The Development of the Arabic Scripts, in which she demonstrates their Nabatean origin and traces their early Islamic forms, based on dated texts (Atlanta, Georgia 1993). Articles on Arabic script appeared in the Encyclopaedia of the Qur'an (2001-06) and the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (2005-08). Her recent work in collaboration with the School of Advanced Research, St. Fe, focuses on stability and change in the Arabic script throughout its history, to appear in the seminar volume The Shape of Script: How and Why Writing Systems Change, edited by Stephen D. Houston.

In classical Arabic poetry, Gruendler produced a book-length study on the panegyrics of Ibn al-Rumi (d. 896) and his iconology of literary patronage (Medieval Arabic Praise Poetry, London, 2003, paperback 2010). Related articles discuss the ode (qasida) and its imitatio (mu`arada) in Muslim Spain and the love lyric (ghazal) as a genre as well as its independently surviving motifs. Gruendler explored the interrelation between rulership and literature in different literary genres in a colloquium, the proceedings from which she has co-edited with Louise Marlow, Wellesley College as Writers and Rulers: Perspectives from Abbasid to Safavid Times (Wiesbaden 2004). Currently she researches literary akhbar to throw light on the often practical roles performed by poetry in the ninth century and its reigning cultural esthetics. Recent articles treat the search for patronage, the intersection between literature and law or finance, the metamorphosis of odes in performance and transmission, the controversy about the abstract style (takhyîl) between scribes and philologists, and the social tension caused by the graphic urban love lyric (ghazal).

She sees the integration of literary theory into pre-modern Near Eastern literatures as an ongoing task of the field and co-hosts with Verena Klemm, Leipzig University, the section on Arabic language and literature (Arabistik) at the meetings of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DOT). Under the title Understanding Near Eastern Literatures (Wiesbaden: Reichert 2000), parts of these projects have formed the pilot volume of the series Literaturen im Kontext: Arabisch – Persisch - Türkisch, edited by Angelika Neuwirth and others and devoted to innovative approaches to Near Eastern literatures.

Together with Julia Bray, Université de Paris VIII-Saint Denis, she has convened a conference to rethink the role of Arabic as a cosmopolitan language avant la lettre and the classification of its literary genres, entitled “Conceptualising Literary History: Foundations of Arabic Literature,” at Yale with a second meeting to take place in Paris, November 25-27, 2010.

Current work comprises a study of the communicative choices of literati in the ninth century and a media history of early Arabic-Islamic book culture, to be written during her residency as a fellow of the Wissenschaftkolleg zu Berlin (Advanced Institute of Berlin) in the academic year 2010-11 In another project she investigates the manifold roles of Christ in classical Arabic poetry. She is further in the process of planning a collective critical edition of the classical Arabic mirror of princes in fable form, Kalîla wa-Dimna in collaboration with Aboubakr Chraïbi, INALCO, Paris. She also participates in the launching of a new bilingual translation series, the Library of Arabic Literature, by the NYU Abu Dhabi Institute.