Prof. Dr. Beatrice Gründler

Image Credit: Quelle: Bernd Wannenmacher

Seminar for Semitic and Arabic studies

Arabic Studies Departement


Beatrice Gruendler is active in five areas of research: the development of the 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 (ninth century C.E.) viewed from the perspective of media history.


Degrees and Positions

1983-1985 Studies at the Université des Sciences Humaines II, Strasbourg
1985-1987 Studies at the Eberhard-Karls-Universität, Tübingen
1987-1995 Studies at the Harvard University

M.A. (“with Distinction”), Department of Near Eastern Languages 
and Civilizations, Harvard University


Ph.D. (“with Distinction”), Department of Near Eastern Languages 
and Civilizations, Harvard University

1995-1996 Visiting Assistant Professor of Arabic Language and Literature, 
Dartmouth College
1996-2002 Assistant Professor für Arabische Literatur am Department of 
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, Yale University
2002-2014 Professor of Arabic Literature, Department of Near Eastern 
Languages and Civilizations, Yale University
Since 2014 Professor of Arabic (Language und Literature), 
Free University of Berlin


Grants and Prizes

1983-1988 Stipend of the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes
1988-1991 Stipend of the Harvard University
1989 Stipend of the Hans-Krüger-Stiftung
1994 Certificate of Distinction in Teaching of the Derek Bok Center 
for Teaching and Learning der Harvard University
1999-2000 Morse Fellowship (Humanities) for assistant professors of 
Yale University
2002 Paul Moore Memorial Grant for Instructional Innovation, 
Yale University
2000 and 2001

Hilles Publication Grant, Whitney Humanities Center, 
Yale University

2002, 2006 
and 2012
Reserach Grants, Macmillan Center for International and Area 
Studies, Yale University

Prof. Dr. Beatrice Gründler 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, see link “Publications” for full citations). Articles on Arabic script appeared in the Encyclopedia of the Qur'an (2001a, 2004c) and the Encyclopedia of Arabic Language and Linguistics (2006c). A recent article on the various uses of the Arabic consonantal alphabet (abgad) throughout the history of the Arabic language, conceived in collaboration with the School of Advanced Research, St. Fe, appeared in the volume The Shape of Script: How and Why Writing Systems Change, edited by S. D. Houston (2012c).

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 (qaṣīda) and its emulation (muʿāraḍa) in Muslim Spain (2000c, 2008c) and the love lyric (ghazal) as a genre as well as its independently surviving motifs (2005b). 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 accounts (akhbār) to throw light on the often practical functions performed by poetry in the ninth century and its reigning cultural esthetics, and the role of philologists as poetic critics by default. Articles treat the search for patronage (2005c ), the intersection between literature and law (notably apostils, tawqīʿāt) and finance (2009a), the transformation of odes in performance and transmission (2007b), the controversy between scribes and philologists about the abstract style (takhyīl) (2008d, 2011b, and 2014b), and the social tension caused by the graphic urban love lyric (ghazal) (2011a).

She sees the integration of literary theory into pre-modern Near Eastern literatures as an ongoing task of the field and has co-hosted with Verena Klemm, Leipzig University, the section on Arabic language and literature (Arabistik) at the meetings of the Deutsche Morgenländische Gesellschaft (DOT) 2001-10. Under the title Understanding Near Eastern Literatures (Wiesbaden: Reichert 2000), some of these projects have formed the pilot volume of the series Literaturen im Kontext: Arabisch – Persisch - Türkisch, devoted to innovative approaches to Near Eastern literatures.

Together with Julia Bray, Oxford University, she has convened two conferences 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,” with a first meeting at Yale, April 16-18, 2010 (see and a second meeting at the Université de Paris VIII St. Denis/INALCO, November 25-27, 2010. The concepts discussed there have informed an introduction to Arabic literature which Gruendler co-wrote with Verena Klemm and Barbara Winkler in Einführung in den Islam, editedby R. Brunner (forthcoming 2014).

She has contributed a study on the theory of love as represented by The Malady of the Hearts of al-Kharāʾiṭī (d. 938) to an interdisciplinary colloquium at the Institute of Advanced Studies in Berlin, which appeared in the volume Martyrdom and Modernity: Visions of Death and Meaningful Suffering in Europe and the Middle East from Antiquity to Modernity (ed. F. Pannewick, Wiesbaden 2004). The theme of posthumous love itself is the subject of an article in Love after Death, edited by B. Jussen and R. Targoff (2014). Another recent project was an encyclopedia of cultural concepts, entitled Classical Arabic Humanities in Their Own Terms (Brill 2007), in honor of the late Wolfhart Heinrichs.

As a Fellow of the Advanced Institute of Berlin during the academic year 2010-11 she began her research project The Islamic Age of Communication. The rise of book culture in the Near East of the ninth century AD, spurred by the introduction of paper and the growth of Arabic into a cosmopolitan lingua franca, occasioned a fundamental shift in the dissemination of knowledge, methods of teaching and publishing, and literary life in general, which had heretofore relied mainly on oral ways. The project draws on the copious preserved written sources (akhbār), which record the contemporary perceptions of the changing ways in which poets, writers, critics, and audiences availed themselves of the new media (paper slips, notebooks, and codices in rough or redacted form) and how communication and the uses of text by the different social and professional classes diversified as a result. Both the court and new venture publishers became playersin the book production, with whom authors had to negotiate. Conversely, books were not necessarily intended to spread information, but could equally well control it and restrict its use. Further phenomena were the coexistence of the spoken and written word, used in many complementary ways, and the new professional status of authors and copyists, affording them independence from patronage. Excerpts of the first chapter have appeared under the title Book Culture before Print: The Early History of Arabic Media (The American University of Beirut, The Margaret Weyerhaeuser Jewett Chair of Arabic. Occasional Papers, 2012; for a related lecture-conversation with Michael Marx, BBAW, “Papyrus, Parchment, Paper: Medial changes of Arabic book culture,” see The entire study, entitled The Arabic Book Revolution, will appear with Harvard University Press. A companion project is an online edition of all extant books and book fragments of the ninth century, including an analysis of these early books’ mise en page and physical appearance.

A recent article discusses the parallels between sententiae attributed to Aristotle and verses of the poet al-Mutanabbi (d. 965) (2012a). To make this most famous poet of the Arabic language better known to Western audiences, she currently prepares together with Hatim Alzahrani (M.A. Yale 2014) a bilingual collection of his most popular verses, which survive today as Arabic idioms and proverbs. The concept of the home (waṭan, awṭān) and its alternatives is the subject of an article to appear in the volume Visions and Representations of the Homeland in Modern Poetry and Prose, edited by S. Günther and S. Milich (forthcoming 2014). She is further in the process of planning a collective critical edition of the classical Arabic mirror of princes in fable form, Kalīla wa-Dimna in collaboration with Louise, Marlow, Wellesley College and Istvan Kristo-Nagy, University of Exeter. A survey of the state of research and the type of problems to be considered is included in the volume Énoncés sapientiels et littérature exemplaire: une intertextualité complexe, edited by M. Bornes Varol and M. Ortola (Nancy 2013). She also participates in the launching of a new bilingual translation series, the Library of Arabic Literature, by the New York University Abu Dhabi Institute with an edition and translation of al-Ṣūlī’s The Life and Times of Abū Tammām (Akhbār Abī Tammām) (forthcoming 2015).

Doctoral and masters theses she had directed cover Andalusian music and its modern performance practice, the anthologies of al-Thaʿālibī (d. 1038), the adab-poetics of al-Ḥuṣrī (d. 1022), al-Ḥātimī’s polemical epistle on al-Mutanabbī, and the genre of proofs of prophethood (dalāʾil al-nubuwwa) viewed from interreligious perspective.