One against Seven
Variations on the Misogynistic Nature of ‘The Seven Sages’ in Different Arabic Manuscript Copies (17th–18th Centuries)
Variants of ‘The Malice of Women and the Malice of Men’, known under the title of ‘The Seven Sages’, have circulated since the 9th century throughout the world and have been susceptible to various kinds of influence, be they religious, linguistic, or thematic. Moreover, the text functioned as a ‘mirror for princes’ and was entertaining for many readers, who were predominantly men. Comparing the existing Arabic manuscripts – Sprenger 1368 (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin), Glaser 166 (Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin), and Paris arabe 3639 (Bibliothèque nationale de France) – this article aims to show variance among the Arabic versions of ‘The Seven Viziers’ and their implications for the theme of misogyny that runs through the book. The variance, this article argues, is one of degree and not kind. Special attention is given to certain structural (story corpus), linguistic, and thematic elements (associations to the story of Potiphar and his wife in the Qurʾān), all of which have implications for the theme of misogyny. Finally, the article looks into the reception of the text, especially by general readers, who used it to confirm their negative perception of women.
Keywords Seven Viziers; Manuscripts; Misogyny; Qurʾān; Variance
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