The Case of Rhyme v. Reason: Ibn al-Rumi and his Poetics in Context
Author: ROBERT C. MCKINNEY Date: 1998 Institution: INDIANA UNIVERSITY Subject:Literature
Abstract: This dissertation examines the poetic contribution of the extremely prolific and versatile 'Abbâsid poet, Ibn al-Rûmî (d. 283/896). Part 1 reconstructs the poet's life and times. It provides a glimpse into a rather fluid period of Arabic literary history, in which the boundary between poetry and the prose arts was becoming increasingly permeable. This was due to many factors, but particularly to the rise of the phenomenon known as the munâzarah. This term originally denoted a theological disputation, with its own increasingly codified rules and methods, but the format was soon adopted by all intellectual disciplines. These munâzarahs preoccupied Ibn al-Rûmî's contemporaries from all walks of life and were of paramount importance in the dissemination of Hellenistic rhetorical theory and practice, and in the development of the nascent prose arts. It is known that Ibn al-Rûmî participated in these disputations, as did numerous of his patrons, and their influence on his themes and stylistics is examined in Part II.
Part III analyzes a full qasîdah in 282 verses. The celebrated poem, no. 444 in Ibn al-Rûmî's dîwân, well exhibits a number of the features of his poetry examined in Part II. During the course of the analysis, historical, bio-bibliographical and literary critical sources from within the tradition are used, as are studies of various classical and Renaissance literatures, and anthropological studies of ritual and ancient Arabian institutions, in order to elucidate both the immediate intent of the poem, and its deeper ritual message, form and structure.
Due to the poem's formidable length, it especially well exemplifies Ibn al-Rûmî's penchant for the literary technique known as istiqsâ' al-ma'ânî, or exhaustive pursuit of poetic conceits, and concomitant tûl al-nafas, or "long-windedness." It also manifests sophisticated organization, observable in a "two dimensional" patterning and a multitude of complex interrelationships which provide the poem with "perspective." The resulting towering architectonics of the poem offers a unique opportunity for the researcher to pursue an elucidation of "the micro-poetics of a macro-qasîdah."