Upcoming Event

Alexander Bevilacqua

presents

The Republic of Arabic Letters:
Islam and the European Enlightenment

This event includes a book signing

Date

Feb
23
Friday
February 23, 2018
3:00 PM

Location

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Tickets

This event is free; no tickets are required.

Harvard Book Store welcomes Assistant Professor of History at Williams College ALEXANDER BEVILACQUA for a discussion of his new book, The Republic of Arabic Letters: Islam and the European Enlightenment.

About The Republic of Arabic Letters

In the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, a pioneering community of Christian scholars laid the groundwork for the modern Western understanding of Islamic civilization. These men produced the first accurate translation of the Qur’an into a European language, mapped the branches of the Islamic arts and sciences, and wrote Muslim history using Arabic sources. The Republic of Arabic Letters reconstructs this process, revealing the influence of Catholic and Protestant intellectuals on the secular Enlightenment understanding of Islam and its written traditions.

Drawing on Arabic, English, French, German, Italian, and Latin sources, Alexander Bevilacqua’s rich intellectual history retraces the routes―both mental and physical―that Christian scholars traveled to acquire, study, and comprehend Arabic manuscripts. The knowledge they generated was deeply indebted to native Muslim traditions, especially Ottoman ones. Eventually, the translations, compilations, and histories they produced reached such luminaries as Voltaire and Edward Gibbon, who not only assimilated the factual content of these works but wove their interpretations into the fabric of Enlightenment thought.

The Republic of Arabic Letters shows that the Western effort to learn about Islam and its religious and intellectual traditions issued not from a secular agenda but from the scholarly commitments of a select group of Christians. These authors cast aside inherited views and bequeathed a new understanding of Islam to the modern West.

Praise

"Fascinating, eloquent, and learned, The Republic of Arabic Letters reveals a world later lost, in which European scholars studied Islam with a sense of affinity and respect. With deep research and insight, Alexander Bevilacqua delivers a powerful reminder of the ability of scholarship to transcend cultural divides, and the capacity of human minds to accept differences without denouncing them." —Maya Jasanoff, author of The Dawn Watch: Joseph Conrad in a Global World

"Among the many things produced by the Enlightenment, we must now include a vast expansion of European scholarly engagement with Arabic and Islam. That engagement shaped much of how future Christians and Muslims would think about each other and themselves. Alexander Bevilacqua’s learned and luminous The Republic of Arabic Letters is both a recovery of a fascinating moment in intellectual history and an exploration of the conditions of thought in our own time." —David Nirenberg, author of Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today

Alexander Bevilacqua
Alexander Bevilacqua

Alexander Bevilacqua

Alexander Bevilacqua is Assistant Professor of History at Williams College.

Harvard Book Store
1256 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138

Walking from the Harvard Square T station: 2 minutes

As you exit the station, reverse your direction and walk east along Mass. Ave. in front of the Cambridge Savings Bank. Cross Dunster St. and proceed along Mass. Ave for three more blocks. You will pass Au Bon Pain, JP Licks, and TD Bank. Harvard Book Store is located at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Plympton St.

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Event Series: Friday Forum

Harvard Book Store's Friday Forum series takes place on Friday afternoons during the academic year as a way to highlight scholarly books in a wide range of fields, with a particular focus on local scholars. Friday Forums take place at 3pm in Harvard Book Store.

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