Inside and Outside the Pleasure Scene In Poetry about Locations by al-Sarī al-Raffā' al-Mawsilī

in Journal of Arabic Literature
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Abstract

Al-Sarī al-Raffā' al-Mawsilī was an Arabic poet known for his descriptive poetry who lived and worked in the tenth century in Iraq and Syria. Al-Sarī al-Raffā' played an important role in the expansion and development of short descriptive poetry in Arabic in the late ninth and tenth centuries. This genre of poetry uses elaborate rhetoric to provide a nuanced commentary on the role of material things, bodies (both human and non-human), and locations in social life. Short descriptive poetry is part of an expansion of the cultural sphere, which includes yet extends beyond the political sphere at this time. An important feature of short descriptive poetry is an interest in the bodily pleasures enjoyed in the context of informal sociability. Descriptions of locations in which pleasure gatherings take place situate the interiority of the pleasure scene in counterpoint to the world beyond the pleasure scene, which includes politics, the military, morality, social hierarchy, and religion. In addition, nature serves as a transition space between the interiority of the pleasure scene and the cultural sphere of the outside world. Al-Sarī's descriptions of mills, bath houses, and rooms in which birds have nested illustrate this counterpoint between the drinking party and the outside world, and between the time out for pleasure and the flow of time and events in the outside world.

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