Jarīr and al-Farazdaq's Naqa'id performance as social commentary
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The pre-Islamic genre of poetry known as naqā’iḍ (flytings) was performed as a contest between two competing poets representing opposing tribes and served the important social function of determining tribal supremacy: the winning poet’s tribe was victorious and the contest itself sometimes replaced an actual battle. In the Umayyad era, however, tribal sedentarization coupled with the advent of Islam contributed to social changes as the landscape became more and more citied. The result was a realignment of traditional tribal relations that changed the context of naqā’iḍ poetry. Yet the genre survived. Scholars have dismissed Umayyad-era naqā’iḍ poetry as a form of entertainment with little purpose, but have failed to explain on what terms it persisted through the Umayyad era. This dissertation examines the effects of the cultural gradations that had been occurring from pre-Islamic times through the Umayyad era on the naqā’iḍ genre by examining the naqā’iḍ of Jarīr and al-Farazdaq. Their new discourse represented a departure from the traditional, agonistic naqā’iḍ of the pre-Islamic era. I compare the discourse of Jarīr and al-Farazdaq’s naqā’iḍ to other diverse lampoon genres, among them the “Dozens,” to illustrate literary theoretical issues they raise. I use Goffman’s concept of “team collusion” to illustrate how Jarīr and al-Farazdaq “colluded” to promote interest in their performances and maintain suspense for their audience. Using Bauman’s theory of “emergence” I show that Jarīr and al-Farazdaq performed the naqā’iḍ as comic entertainment for their audience, which allowed the poets to gain influence over them. The naqā’iḍ of Jarīr and al-Farazdaq represent a form of negotiating the turmoil of tribal relations via tribal competition and social satire in an increasingly urbanizing world.