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Modes of Loss: al-Andalus in the Arabic Poetic Imagination

  • Author(s): Cruz, Anna Celeste
  • Advisor(s): Siddiq, Muhammad
  • et al.
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This dissertation examines the ways medieval and modern Arab poets utilize the space and image of al-Andalus to express nostalgia, mourning, and loss. This project combines archaeological and art historical sources with medieval and modern historical and literary texts to document the physical reality and social fabric of medieval Spain. These materials along with textual analyses of poetry from Ibn Zaydūn, ʿAbd al-Wahhāb al-Bayātī, and Maḥmūd Darwīsh, among others, form the basis of my multi-theoretical approach to understanding the impact of loss upon an individual and their respective communities. I argue that while such poetic works deviate from the tradition of the Arabic elegy in structural terms, they are unified in terms of content, especially in portraying al-Andalus as both a lost beloved and an idealized site for mourning. This absent signifier transcends temporal, geographic, and linguistic boundaries to become endemic to Arab cultural memory and identity.

I show how these medieval and modern poetic texts creates hybrid documents of history, allegory, and fantasy to express tragedy and hope, memories of the past, and dreams of the future. The events of 1492 in which Nasrid Granada, the last Muslim stronghold in al-Andalus, was handed over to King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella, are considered a major turning point in Arab cultural history. It is not surprising that this loss, which has been reasonably expressed in medieval Arabic, continues to haunt modern Arabic poetry and still resonates in the imagination of late modern Arab poets. Twentieth-century authors throughout the Arab world have utilized the image of al-Andalus in their poetry.

This project offers alternative approaches to intertextuality in Arabic literature by introducing concepts of materiality and visuality. I put architectural and landscape theories in dialogue with anthropological theories of loss and nostalgia to analyze the psychological, physical, and sensory states of the author as they (re)claim possession of the spaces of loss that are no longer in their control. By drawing connections between the literary, visual, and material cultures of al-Andalus and the contemporary Middle East this dissertation employs interdisciplinary methods for understanding the concept of loss, home, and identity.

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This item is under embargo until August 22, 2020.