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Torsten Wollina (Alumnus BGSMCS)


Zwanzig Jahre Alltag. Lebens-, Welt- und Selbstbild im Journal des Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq

PhD Research (2008 - 2013):

Twenty Years of Everyday Life. Biography, Worldview and Self-Image in the Journal of Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq

Aḥmad Ibn Ṭawq’s Taʿlīq (d. 1510) is one of only a few examples that survived from an indigenous arabic diary tradition which lasted about a thousand years. It is also by far the most extensive one, its edition amounting to almost 2,000 pages covering twenty years.

Despite considerable scholarly attention in recent years, this is the first monograph dedicated to the Taʿlīq, not as a source but as the subject of inquiry. To these ends, Torsten Wollina discusses it as an ego-document shedding new light on the interdependence of text form and presented information. 

The first of four chapters frames the study by introducing the author and placing the Taʿlīq within the arabic diary tradition, which conformed both to the needs of historians (as primary sources) and to those of the author (as a pragmatic text for everyday use). The following two chapters give attention to the portrayal of Ibn Ṭawq’s household and of his views about the wider world, respectively. The fourth chapter concludes the study  with an analysis of the author’s self image as conveyed in his text.

On this basis Wollina addresses questions of both literary studies and social history. Chapters 2 and 3 investigate Ibn Ṭawq’s depiction of the social as well as the physical world he lived in. Chapter 2 is dedicated to the author’s household with individual subchapters on his women and children, as well as on the physical space of his house. Chapter 3 approaches the author’s perception of the wider world he lived in („Lebenswelt“). To this end, Wollina analyzes how his line of work as a notary and position in a cadi’s faction, the ritual of tashrīf (the robing of officials and others), and his taking part of the contemporary food culture influenced his views on and attitudes towards society. 

Chapter 4 scrutinizes the text for the self image it conveys. Starting from a typology developed by Astrid Meier in an article on Dimensions and Crises of the Self, Wollina tries to unearth Ibn Ṭawq’s personality and self-consciousness from his journal and re-addresses the question how the text form influences or even restricts the author in expressing himself. However, although Ibn Ṭawq’s self representation in general conforms to the literary model of a stable personality prevalent in his times, the journal also offers glimpses to the contrary, demonstrating the complex relationships between an author, his text and the world he lived in.

First Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Gudrun Krämer

Second Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Lutz Berger

Third Supervisor: Prof. Dr. Ulrike Freitag