In Praise of Song

The Making of Courtly Culture in al-Andalus and Provence, 1005-1134 A.D.


This volume offers a reconstruction of the court culture of the taifa kings of al-Andalus (11th century A.D.), using both visual and textual evidence. A focus of particular attention is the court of the Banū Hūd at Zaragoza, and that dynasty's palace, the Aljafería. Principle written sources are not histories and chronicles, but the untranslated poetic anthologies of al-ḥimyarī and al-Fatḥ ibn Khāqān.
The first part of the book addresses taifa visual and literary languages, with especial emphasis on connections between the literary and visual aspects of taifa aesthetics. The sections on the Aljafería's ornamental program will be of particular interest, not only to historians of Islamic art, but to students of all visual traditions with strong non-figural components.
In addition, Part One also proposes that taifa court culture has been considered as a culture of "courtly love," and this argument also forms the point of departure for Part Two. The second part of the study uses luxury objects of Islamic and Limousine production as a point of departure for a detailed comparison of the thematics of taifa poetry in classical Arabic on the themes of courtly love and pleasures with those of the better-known Provençal tradition.

Biographical Note

Cynthia Robinson, Ph.D. (1995) in Art History, University of Pennsylvania, is Assistant Professor of Islamic and Medieval Art at the University of New Mexico. She has published on Andalusī art and literature, and together with Oleg Grabar, Islamic Art and Literature (Markus Wiener Press, 2001).

Table of contents

Dedication Acknowledgements List of Illustrations Glossary of Arabic Terms Introduction Part One: The Culture of Courtly Love in al-Andalus, 1005-1134 A.D. Introduction To Part One: Posing the Problem: The Aljafería and its Historiography 1. Initial Impressions: First Readings of Space and Ornament 2. Approaches and Academic Contexts Chapter One: Ceremonial Space, Pleasurable Space, and the Majlis al-Uns in Later Taifa Court Culture 1. Introduction 2. Ceremonial Space and the Aesthetic of Variety 3. The Realm of Ritual Pleasure: An Aesthetic of the Ambiguous Chapter Two: Models of Good Behavior: Early 11th-century Precedents for Culture of Courtly Love at the Courts of the Later Mulûk al-Tawâ’if 1. The Politics of Legitimacy: Panegyric and the Construction of Royal Identity Under the 'Âmirî Rulers and during the Fitna 2. Al-Himyarî’s Badî` fi Wasf al-Rabî` and Its Subjects, the Kuttâb: an Andalusî Anthology 3. The Andalusî “Loving Subject:” Early Appearances at the `Âmirî Courts 4. TheElegant King: The Beginnings of "Courtly" Royal Panegyric in al-Andalus 5. The Cult of Pleasure and the “Courtly” Sovereign at the Court of the Banû Hamm 6. Images of “Courtliness:” Depicting the Majlis and the Courtly Sovereign Chapter Three: Analogy, Metaphor and Courtly Love: A Reconstruction of the Nadîm’s Sensibilities 1. The Analogical Habit of Thought 2. A World of Similarities: Badî` and the Wondrous Possibilities of Metaphor 3. The Esthetics of Metaphor: Badî` in a Later Taifa Court Context 4. Mystical Possibilities: the Symbol as a Point in Common between Mystical and Philosophical Paths Toward Illumination 5. Courtliness, Love and Language Chapter Four: The Makings of Paradise: The Consequences of Analogical Thought for Palace Ornament and its Reception in a Later Taifa Court Context 1. Introduction 2. The Nadîm Looks Up and Listens 3. Seeing Paradise 4. Philosophical Implications 5. The Majlis: Analogical Portal to the Seven Heavens Conclusion To Part One: Tawhîd: The Unity of Sacred and Profane in the Aljafería’s Microcosmos Part Two: Courtly Courts as a Sites of Cultural Interaction Intro To Part Two: The Case of the Two Caskets: Comparative Considerations Chapter One: A Question of Influence?: Some Considerations on the Muwashshaha Chapter Two: In the Context of Courtliness Chapter Three: The Question of Language Chapter Four: The Andalusî-Occitan Panegyric: Poetics of Courtly Love Chapter Five: Al-`Arab wa-l-`Ajam: Cultural Interaction Along the Northern Frontier in the 11th Century Conclusion: The Two Caskets Again: Conclusion Bibliography Index