1 December 2021: Boris Liebrenz presents "The Arabic Aristotle in Constantinople" at MESA

On December 1, 2021, Boris Liebrenz gave a presentation at the MESA Annual Meeting 2021 in Montreal. 

The political and cultural relations between Byzantium and the nascent Ottoman realm were often marked by hostilities. However, that substantial contact on all levels nonetheless happened is also true. The reception of classical Greek authors such as Aristotle in Arabic literature by means of a number of early translations is well known. However, the converse presence of Arabic literature in the Byzantine capital is much less attested, nor is it widely expected. Could Aristotle have returned to the center of Greek culture in an Arab garb? Who would have been the audience of this translation? Who would have brought it there and for what purpose?

A manuscript now preserved at the Bibliothèque national in Paris shows that, indeed, at least one early Ottoman scholar studied his Aristotle in Constantinople long before it was conquered by the a descendent of his sultan. This talk will showcase the use of minute manuscript notes as means to provide broader context, sometimes a surprising one, for the literature that scholarship tends to study as disembodied texts. The trajectories of manuscripts, but also the lives of their owners and readers, can reveal unexpected connections or complicate modern assumptions of textual histories.

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