Arab Folklore

A Handbook

by Dwight F. Reynolds


Surveys the fascinating and timely world of Arab folklore in a convenient introductry guide for students and general readers.

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Cover image for Arab Folklore

September 2007


Pages 272
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Geography and World Cultures/Folklore

The Arab world is constantly in the news. This book gives students and general readers an introduction to Arab culture by surveying the folklore of the region. The volume defines and classifies different types of folklore and provides a wide range of examples and texts. It looks at the critical and scholarly response to Arab folklore and the place of Arab folklore in contemporary culture. Included are references to numerous print and electronic works for further reading.

The Arab world is constantly in the news, and students and general readers need to become familiar with Arab culture. Central to any society are the beliefs and customs held dear by the people. In examining Arab folklore, this book provides a fundamental understanding of the ways of the Arab world. In doing so, it helps readers appreciate Arab culture and gain insight into one of the world's most politically and economically important regions.

Arab folklore is exotic to most students, and this volume begins by defining and classifying different folklore types. It then provides a wide range of examples and texts related to Arab folklore. It surveys the critical and scholarly response to Arab folklore and discusses the importance of Arab folklore to popular culture. The volume closes with a bibliography of print and electronic sources for further reading.



"The book could comprise one of a set of texts for a general course on Arab-world culture or for a course on global folklore. The work is prepared for English-speaking students and scholars, and as such is notably effective—among the best in the pantheon of introductory texts for humanities and social science aficionados. . . . Reynolds’s clear explications open up for students the opportunity to move forward both in their knowledge of folklore theory and methodology and of the Arab world. Even for advanced undergraduate Arabic majors, the book is an excellent source to work from as they develop a paper focusing on a particular folklore performance or a comparative topic. . . . [I]t is a book that remains on one’s bookshelf as a resource long after the course is completed. In a sense it is also timeless, canonical—as important now, if not more so, than when it first appeared in 2007."—Journal of Folklore Research

"This is the first volume in the Greenwood Folklore Handbook series to treat the Middle East, and it is an excellent beginning. Reynolds has considerable experience, having lived in the Middle East and conducted research there, and he provides an introduction to the history and culture of the Arabs and then proceeds, using selective miniature case studies, to survey verbal, musical, and material arts and also customs and traditions from many parts of the Arab world. He offers helpful readings, a review of the scholarship and of approaches to studying folklore, and a section on the importance of context. The examples and illustrations are judicious: they reflect the variety of the folklore, include many translations from the Arabic, and offer balanced coverage of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities. His coverage of the literature is broad and one misses only mention of Ruth Finnegan's Oral Poetry: Its Nature, Significance and Social Context (CH, Mar'78), with its comparative sociological approach and somewhat different slant on the subject. Essential. Lower- and upper-division undergraduates; general readers."—Choice

"Where Arab Folklore differs from many other handbooks is in the extraordinary geographical, historical, and generic sweep Dwight Reynolds has orchestrated in writing this guide to Arab folklore covering some 20 countries and multiple regional folk cultures....[T]he handbook includes a very rich list of print and electronic references for the topics covered in each chapter, and an extensive bibliography at the end....Dwight Reynold's Arab Folklore should be of interest to a wide range of readers, from students specializing in folklore, to scholars teaching and doing research on the Middle East in various disciplines, to the average reader who simply wants to know more about the Arab world."—Middle East Journal

"In this series for students of folklore and general readers, volumes generally focus on a specific genre, but this volume considers a geographical area encompassing some 20 countries, many with multiple cultures. Reynolds (religious studies, U. of California-Santa Barbara) illustrates representative genres with particular works, and discusses themes that pervade the diversity of modern and historical Arab verbal and narrative arts, musical arts, material arts, and customs and traditions."—SciTech Book News

"This book examines not only the folk narratives of the region but also it's poetry, music, art, customs and traditions. It starts with a brief but detailed overview of the history, religion and people of Arabia. The next section examines Arabia's oral literature, providing many examples of poems and stories, before moving on to look at other aspects of Arabian folklore."—Storylines

"A handful of black-and-white illustrations enhance this thoughtful guide for college-level students of mythography and Arab culture, highly recommended for college library shelves"—Midwest Book Review

"Arab Folklore differs from other handbooks in its extraordinary geographical and historical coverage of Arab folklore. It encompasses multiple regional folk cultures that span roughly 20 countries and examines not only the folk narratives but also poetry, music, art, customs, and traditions...The discussion is made meaningful through a series of miniature case studies. These aptly illustrate the major themes and genres listed above. They also highlight the importance of performance and context in the Arab world. This approach offers a balanced coverage of the Muslim, Christian, and Jewish communities in the Arab world...The handbook would be invaluable to those specializing in folklore or Middle Eastern studies."—ARBA

". . . an excellent overview of Arab culture, illuminating the diversity of folk traditions from a rich seedbed comprising some twenty nationalities. . . well organized and logically presented . . . The book is useful for the general public and for students of folklore. . ."—Western Folklore


Special Storytelling Resources (2009 Honors) — Storytelling World

Outstanding Academic Title, 2008 — CHOICE

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