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Visions of Esoteric Secrets in Two Miniature Paintings of the Mathnawī's Bawdy Tales

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Chapter Summary

Although Rūmῑ's Mathnawῑ has not been the subject of extensive manuscript illumination, two of its bawdy tales have been depicted in a 16th century illustrated manuscript. The author examines the representational strategies operative in two miniature paintings and evaluates their communicative association with their pictorial representations and the viewers' responses they incite. The act of looking depicted in these sexually explicit "pornographic" paintings can be differentiated from that which Lacan designates as the gaze. The gaze is the condition that structures the representational strategies of these two paintings as well as the viewer's response. The difference between the look and the gaze is expressive of the difference between the external form illustrated in one of the miniature paintings and its inner meaning. In the two miniature paintings the gaze structures the process of representation while, like a mirror, prompting the viewers to recognize their own positions of subjectivity.

Keywords: bawdy tales; esoteric secrets; Mathnawῑ; miniature paintings



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