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image of Journal of Arabic Literature

This article focuses on the go-between character, Umm 'Amr, in "Maqāma 9" by the Andalusi writer al-Saraqustī, ibn al-Aštarkūwī (d. 1143). Umm 'Amr is one of the first literary manifestations of a character that continued to gain popularity in the medieval literature of the Iberian Peninsula, culminating in the figure of the old whore, Celestina, protagonist of the medieval Spanish work that bears her name. Elements common to the later Spanish tradition that appear in this maqāma are the go-between's avaricious personality, her rhetorical skills, and the context of lovesickness in which she operates. Umm 'Amr appears in the first part of "Maqāma 9" in the role usually played by the trickster al-Sadūsī. She initiates the trick by luring al-Sā'ib with her eyes and then enticing him with her speech. She makes promises, gives orations, composes poetry, and haggles. Umm 'Amr kindles al-Sā'ib's fire, and then promises to help him find a cure for his burning love, while all the time stringing him along and further enhancing his desire by talking of the beloved and giving him false hopes. Umm 'Amr is greedy, persuasive, and proud of her professional skills as a procuress in much the same way Celestina or Trotaconventos (the gobetween of the Libro de buen amor) is, and, like both those figures, Umm 'Amr is characterized as a potential healer of the protagonist's lovesickness.


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