تأنيث المذكر وﺗﺬﻛﻴﺮ المؤنث: دراسة في الخطاب الأدبي القديم / Feminizing the Masculine and Masculinizing the Feminine: A Study in Classical Literary Discourse



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بريري, محمد; Birairi, Muhammad

Document Type

Research Article

Publication Title

Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics

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[This study postulates that, despite the deep-rootedness of the binary opposition between masculinity and femininity that seems to be evident in the heritage of classical Arabic literature, on the level of linguistic theorizing and on the level of propagandistic literary discourse, and the implications of this in terms of bias-in spite of all of this-there has not been a lack of texts that have represented what we can consider a challenge or resistance to this binarism, since some symbolic poetic subjects suggest the possibility that some feminized objects/beings may represent positive values that are usually associated with the world of the masculine. Of the most obvious examples of this is the clear sense of heroism implied by the poetic presence of the she-camel in classical literary discourse, and how that she-camel connotes an extraordinary ability to surmount hardships and obstacles, including a noble struggle. On the other hand, some texts undertook to dismantle the binary opposition between the masculine and the feminine by feminizing what was supposed to be masculine and masculinizing what was supposed to be feminine. This appeared in a strikingly clear way in a famous poem by al-Shanfara when he lauded Ta'abata Sharran comparing him to a mother, thereby referring to him in the feminine. Al-Shanfara's act attracted the attention of ancient analysts whose commentaries expressed their sense of the extreme deviation that al-Shanfara had committed when he feminized al-sa'laka (tramping) and also rendered the feminine in terms of tramping. As for Abu Nuwas and the likes of him-who devoted themselves to the subject of celebrating the masculine in love poems-imagery feminizing the masculine and masculinizing the feminine appeared in their poetry, and that is what this study considers a poetic dismantling of the binary opposition between the masculine and the feminine. This study also indicates that Abu Nuwas's act is associated with a general tendency of his to dismantle the binary oppositions upon which bigotry, in its different forms, is based. In the domain of narrative, a writer like al-Jahiz includes in some of his treatises oral reports that correspond with Abu Nuwas in terms of their inclination towards dismantling the binarism of the masculine and the feminine. Furthermore, some of these oral reports which possess a narrative quality imply a mockery of the idea of male virility, as they accentuate-in their succession-female sexual superiority. It is as if these narratives seek to dismantle the idea of superior masculine virility and to establish a kind of balance between the bodily presence of each of the male and the female. Al-Jahiz introduced these oral narratives in an introduction in which he discredits those who deem speaking about the body a taboo on the pretext of piety, which he maintains is a false piety implicit of hypocrisy. In demonstrating and reinforcing his viewpoint, al-Jahiz used sayings and actions reported from the Prophet and his Companions. It was not strange for al-Jahiz to attack the elaboration of taboos in this context, because challenging the binarism between the male and the female is itself one of the taboos of traditional culture that al-Jahiz's narratives undertook to undermine.]

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