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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

3 - Discovery in Bayān


Chapter 3 focuses on discussions of simile (tashbīh) in the nonphilosophical critical tradition, namely, in al-Jurjānī’s Asrār al-balāgha (The Secrets of Eloquence), which forms the site of the most elaborate articulation of an aesthetic theory of wonder. The chapter argues that the pleasure that arises from simile is attributed to its ability to elucidate (bayān), which in turn allows the listener to go through an experience of discovery and wonder. The more effort is required to grasp a simile and the stranger it is, the more beautiful it is. The chapter goes on to show how the principles that enhance the strangeness and farfetchedness of simile put forth by al-Jurjānī are later systematized and organized in the science of eloquence as formalized by al-Sakkākī and al-Khaṭīb al-Qazwīnī. While the specific elements that allow for an experience of discovery in simile are unique to that figure, the general discovery-based theory of aesthetic experience forms the foundation for the aesthetics of metaphor and sentence construction, as well, which are tackled in Chapters 4 and 5.