The Many Lives of Arabic Verse: Ibn Nubatah al-Misri Mourns More Than Once

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Arab & Islamic Civilizations Department

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Research Article

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Journal of Arabic Literature

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Ibn Nubatah's printed Diwan is an unreliable source that has led scholars to draw erroneous conclusions, among them the suggestion that we can perceive a difference in Ibn Nubatah's treatment of his wife's death and that of his concubine (jariyah). In fact, the poems on which these conclusions are based were written for the same woman. Equally problematic for scholarship is the existence of poems that occur in multiple versions. This article treats the case of Ibn Nubatah al-Mis.ri's (686-768/1287-1366) parallel mourning, and includes a critical edition of the texts under discussion based on more than ten manuscript copies of the poet's Diwan. It proposes that Ibn Nubatah's opportunistic mourning is an efficient metaphor for the status of polyontic poetry (i.e. poems which occur in different versions in different contexts) in scholarship. In most cases, the longest version of a poem is granted the status of poetic original while all other instances of a poem, including those that appear in anthologies, are often treated as subsidiary. I argue that if we can learn to tolerate multiple instances of mannered mourning, we ought to be able to read polyontic poems in parallel. © 2013 Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden.

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