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Literary Hybridization in the Zajal: Ibn Quzmān's Zajal 88 (The Visit of Sir Gold)

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This article examines Ibn Quzmān's Zajal 88 from the vantage point of recent theoretical studies on the various manifestations of intercultural hybridization. On the basis of an Old Irish zajalesque text, it draws attention to the possibility that the zajal genre may well have existed in Europe as early as the ninth century AD, if not earlier, in the seventh, thereby suggesting that previously proposed Eastern, Arabic sources for the origin of that genre are unlikely—at least, insofar as its strophic structure is concerned. In contrast, the literary materials out of which the zajal is composed are, in the case of this poem (and many others by the same author), largely borrowed from the Classical Arabic qasīda, although they are subverted in a comic and parodic manner. This burlesque approach, in turn, allows the author to criticize the cupidity and insincerity of contemporary poets, at a time when the poet-patron relationship was undergoing a severe crisis in Andalus. An analysis of the poem's thematic structure further reveals it to be a tightly knit masterpiece, based on that form of chiastic patterning known to literary critics as ring composition, commonly found, not only in the Colloquial zajal of Ibn Quzmān, but also in Classical Arabic poetry. Finally, such a conclusion further helps to dispel that now largely discredited, if still not entirely abandoned view, according to which medieval Arabic poetry is a disorderly, line-by-line agglomerate of random and incoherent thoughts poorly organized into a whole.

Affiliations: 1: University of California, Berkeley


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