ﻛﺄﻥ" بين ﺍﻟﺘﺸﺨﻴﺺ والتشبيه / Ka'anna (as if) between Personification and Similitude


Suad Al-Manie



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المانع, سعاد; al-Manie, Suad

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[The main question which this article poses and proceeds to investigate is: how did the classical Arab critics and rhetoricians deal with "ka'anna" (as if)? This particle was normally categorized in their critical writings as the tool by which comparison based on resemblance (tashbīh) is constructed. However, there are many instances where its usage revealed it to be closely linked to personification (tashkhīs) and metaphor ('isti'āra). In such examples, it becomes especially difficult to identify the two poles of the comparison which are otherwise evident in similes. This article argues that the investigation of such a particular problem sheds light on more general theoretical issues, namely the signification and usage of literary critical terminology in early Arab critical writings, particularly with regard to simile, personification and metaphor. A reading of some late Arabic texts on rhetoric and grammar, especially those produced by the Kūfī critics, reveals that there indeed had been a debate over the signification and usage of "ka'anna" beyond that of establishing comparison based on resemblance (similitude). Among such instances were the use of "ka'anna" to establish approximation (al-taqrīb), assumption (al-ẓann), reckoning (al-ḥusbān) and uncertainty (al-shakk). However, most of these texts, even as they cited instances of such varied usages, continued to ascertain, in accordance with the rule of the majority, that "ka'anna" was used to construct a simile. When the article comes to the later critics, such as Amidī and Jurjānī, who represent the period of maturation of classical Arabic literary criticism, it shows that the former cited examples of "ka'anna" in conceits and strained metaphors ('istiʿāra baʿīda) and the latter cited examples of it in personification. Nevertheless, neither one stops to consider the signification of such usages and modify the role of "ka'anna." Finally, the article seeks to understand why classical Arab critics and rhetoricians paid no attention to such usages of "ka'anna," despite their citations of instances of its use in metaphor and personification, by providing two possible explanations. First, it argues that the early texts, which dealt with poetics and Quranic interpretation, were devoid of such examples. Hence the absence of the debate. Second, the article argues that the signification of the term simile had a much broader sense for the classical critics so that it encompassed the term metaphor.]

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