[P4379] Purpose, Cross-Purpose, Re-Purpose: Performance and Politics in the Classical Arabic Qasida

Created by Suzanne P. Stetkevych
Saturday, 11/19/16 12:00nn


The past quarter century of classical Arabic poetry criticism has interpreted the qasida (ode) structure in light of the performance—presentation and reception-- of the qasida as recounted in the classical literary-historical compendia and has demonstrated the role of poetry in political negotiations for rank, power and authority. The present panel builds on this foundation to more deeply explore formal variations and political implications of the qasida. Paper 1: The Elegy as Double-Edged Sword: Jarir’s Ritha’ to his Wife, goes beyond the current focus on panegyric to take up another qasida sub-genre, the elegy. The paper demonstrates, however, that in the hands of the Umayyad master-poet, Jarir, even so apparently lyrical and elegiac a form is manipulated so as to perform as hija’ (satire) of the poet’s political and poetic rivals. Paper 2: Restructuring the Society deals with Poetry and the Consolidation of the Abbasid State and employs performance theory to demonstrate the role of a court panegyric by Sudayf ibn Maymun to the first Abbasid caliph, al-Saffah, in instigating the Abbasid slaughter of the defeated Umayyads. As a result, the qasida functions to both incite and articulate the ideological and political consolidation of the early Abbasid State. Paper 3: Mourning and Performing: al-Ma`arri’s Elegy to al-Sharif al-Tahir, seeks to demonstrate how the blind poet from provincial Syria exploits the death of a Baghdadi Shi`ite notable to compose an elegy that will gain him entry into the Baghdadi literary elite, headed by the deceased’s two sons, the poets al-Sharif al-Radi and al-Sharif al-Murtada. Paper 4: Repurposing the Jahiliyya: The Battle of Dhu Qar as Inspirational Allegory, focuses on an 18th century compilation purporting to recount the events and poetry surrounding the celebrated pre-Islamic Arab victory over the Persians, the Battle of Dhu Qar. It argues that the literary tradition transformed this historical event into an inspirational allegory to boost Arab morale against foreigners, particularly Persians—as evidenced in its revival in the late 18th century and again in the 1980s during the Iraq-Iran War. Our panel discussant has been selected to encourage a dialog on further directions for research in classical Arabic poetry, especially as regards the intimate interplay between poetics and politics as manifested in complex and hybrid poetic genres.





Suzanne P. Stetkevych

(Georgetown University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Muhsin J. Al-Musawi

(Columbia University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair; Discussant;