Andalusi Contests, Syrian Media Content: the Poetic Ritual Ijāzah

In: Journal of Arabic Literature

Abstract

This article moves the poetic ijāzah from the periphery, where modern scholars have generally placed it, to a central position in Arabic poetry and mass media. The ijāzah was well developed before its adoption in the western Mediterranean, but Cordoban, Sevillian, and expatriate Sicilian poets distinguished the competitive improvised poem from corollary works in the Middle East, where it had first been invented. I argue that it is precisely the Andalusi innovations to the ijāzah’s formal development that have allowed traditional criticism to minimize its importance, against a larger trend of popular audiences appreciating performed ijāzahs, on stage and in mass media. Modern Arabic theatre and television have found enthusiastic audiences for the Andalusi poetic dialogue, a phenomenon that frames my Classical research. Media outlets, including those working closely with government officials, stage the ijāzah in ways that maximize its ideological value. As they use it to promote secularism and putatively benevolent dictatorship, propelling Andalusi literature into current Middle Eastern politics, we critics should seek to understand the dialogic form in its contemporary, insistently political phase of development.

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