Poetics of Classical Literature In Oriental-Islamic Languages
The Musammat Form as a Cohesive Factor
Keywords:classical literature, lyricality of tradition, intertextuality, musammat, tahmis, nazira
In classical literature written in what is usually referred to as “Oriental-Islamic languages” (namely, Arabic, Persian, and Turkish) a conglomeration of poetic forms under the collective name of musammat was cultivated over the course of many centuries. From the viewpoint of poetics, these forms arouse interest primarily due to the fact that, because of the high production level and esteem they commanded in literary tradition, they largely contributed towards the unity of the poetical system in classical literature in spite of its trilingual nature. This fact prompts the student to approach classical literature in these languages as one unified system, setting aside ethnocentric approaches to classical literature that emerged considerably later in time and that are indeed incongruent with the very character of that literature. Musammat forms contribute profoundly to the continuity of literary tradition in “Oriental-Islamic languages”, functioning as a strong cohesive factor: the poetic continuity of these forms is observable from antique Arabian qasidas to the literary output in Ottoman language in which most of them were in fact composed. From the viewpoint of poetics, musammat forms represent the culminating point of the inherent inclination of this literary tradition towards form itself, which traditionally was dominant over subject-matter. Moreover, musammat forms went so far in that direction that form, rather than subject-matter, became principal poetic inspiration (e.g. tahmis, nazira, masnavi). Ultimately form is transformed into the hero of the tradition and the relationship governing form and its subject-matter was liberal to the point that any subject-matter could be encompassed by and expressed in any given form and in so doing literary tradition becomes double lyrical. On one hand, lyrical genres dominate the tradition, and on the other, exceptionally dynamic relation between different forms renders the tradition as a whole more dynamic and lyrical allowing for the complete surrender to the charms of forms and facilitating the exit of the libertine subject into the realm of forms. This poetical approach to classical literature, particularly in the study of musammat forms as one its dominant currents, demonstrate the fact that this literary tradition cannot be considered epigonic even though it may appear as such on the first impression. The tradition is characterized by its dynamic nature expressed in various elusive ways which reveal themselves only upon thorough poetical scrutiny.