Allegories of Ruin: Architecture and Knowledge in Early Arabic Poetry

in Journal of Arabic Literature
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Abstract

This study examines the architectural lexicon (ṭalal, dār, rasm, bayt) of early Arabic poetry, interrogating the relation between built and linguistic form in the nasīb. I argue that the interpenetration of the aṭlāl and khayāl motifs and of other structural elements of the qaṣīdah allegorizes the fleeting and phantasmatic nature of all linguistic and material structures. In the early Arabic episteme, poetic forms materialize history, delineating realities even as they fall endlessly into ruin. The implied theories of language and knowledge may inflect our understanding of the entire tradition of Arabo-Islamic expression emerging from this literary milieu.

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