Sperl's study questions whether mannerism and classicism can be applied to the analysis of Arabic poetry. While mannerism in Arabic literature has traditionally been associated with an excessive use of rhetorical devices and illustrated with reference to poetic fragments and extracts, Sperl approaches the question through a structuralist examination of poems as a whole. The texts selected range from the 9th to the 11th centuries AD and are drawn from the works of Abu l-Atahiya, Buhturi, Mihyar al-Daylami and Maarri. The poems which are studied in detail in successive chapters exhibit profound stylistic differences in sound, imagery, and composition. In the light of structuralist analysis, these differences do indeed appear to conform to a characteristic classicist/mannerist continuum also observed in other literatures. The structuralist approach moreover leads to a broader reevaluation of these terms in the final chapter.