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Introduction

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Chapter Summary

The Mathnawī, the Mystical Epic of the great 13th century Persian mystic Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī (d. 1273) contains many explicit sexual images and bawdy tales scattered over its more than 25,000 verses. In the context of medieval Persian mystical poetry Rūmī is the only mystic who employs bawdy tales and coarse language to convey mystical knowledge. It is particularly relevant that Lacan extends the range of Freud's "dream analysis" into the linguistic realm. Lacan's semiotic model is particularly useful for the analysis of mystical texts in which the communication of esoteric secrets is the primary concern. The bawdy passages of the Mathnawī have a satirical and humorous dimension as well. In many ways the process of disseminating esoteric knowledge is comparable to the mechanisms of the resurfacing of desires in symbolic forms.

Keywords: bawdy tales; Jalāl al-Dīn Rūmī; Lacan; Mathnawī; Persian mystical poetry

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