Music and Performing Arts

The Poetics of Islamic Legitimacy: Myth, Gender, and Ceremony in the Classical Arabic Ode

Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych, Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2002. 383 pages.

In The Poetics of Islamic Legitimacy, Suzanne Pinckney Stetkevych effectively debunks the myth that the classical Arabic panegyric ode  (qasidat al-madh) is merely a descriptive, prescriptive, or sycophantic poetic genre by demonstrating its dynamic engagements with what she terms “Arabo-Islamic court life.” The book builds on her previous work (e.g., The Mute Immortals Speak [Cornell University Press: 1993]), using an approach that blends an understanding of myth, rite, and archetype in the classical Arabic qasidah with historically grounded, contextualized interpretations of these poems. Her insightful, close readings of individual poems are coupled with a detailed exploration of the classical Arabic qasidah’s social and ritual functions – from the pre-Islamic period, through its early days, and continuing through the Umayyad and `Abbasid periods.

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