Largely due to their own monoglottic dispositions, the small body of "macaronic" poetry within Islamic literatures has been designated as insignificant and therefore unworthy of study by the puritans representing each of the linguistic traditions.
This paper explores the various socio-political, cultural, literary, aesthetic, and religious reasons for ‘speaking in more than one tongue’ through the works of one of the greatest mystical poets of all times, Jalal-al-Din Rumi (1207-1273).
Rumi composed close to 100 (of total 3502, or 3%) ghazals (lyrical poems), by mixing:
5. the occasional Mongolian locution and
6. even an amorous Armenian phrase.
Whilst an exploration of the variety of reasons that lead to such pluralist poetics is the overarching focus, the study reads Rumi’s mulammaat as a dynamically imaginative and unique form of apophatic discourse.
Furthermore, it suggests that the primary significance of Rumi’s language plurality is not simply its poetic ingenuity.
Rather, its contributions lies in opening up an entire mode of expression which might be termed “macaronic,” not in terms of mixed-language compositions, but also in terms of a plurality of approaches which defy authoritative religious, moral, linguistic, and literary categories.
(from - Nargis Virani, “I am the Nightingale of the Merciful”
In my doctoral dissertation I studied, through the multi-lingual poems of Mawlana Jalal al-Din Rumi (1207-1273 C.E.), the phenomenon of multilingual compositions in Western and Islamic literary traditions. I also discussed the terms and usage of “macaronic” and mulammaat historically and in contemporary times. I demonstrated through examples that the two terms cannot be treated synonymously.
Nargis Virani, “‘I am the Nightingale of the Merciful,’ Macaronic or Upside-Down?: The Mulammaat, of Jalaluddin Rumi.” (Ph.D. diss., Harvard University, 1999).
Translations of the entire corpus of Rumi’s macaronic poems will appear in my forthcoming work, "The Macaronic Rumi: Jalaluddin Rumi’s Multilingual Experiment."
Based on my reading of Rumi's mulammaat, I hope to undertake an article-length study on the "macaronic" nature and style of his didacticism through the reinterpretation of a few stories from the Mathnawi.
This "macaronic" mode of argumentation has very little to do with the use of mixed-language. Rather, it is the introduction of an entirely different perspective, an "upside-down" approach.
I hope to further show that what appears on the surface as didacticism contains a germ of "Menippean element" which questions the very foundations of long-held assumptions, beliefs, and tenets. They force the audience/participants to reevaluate their fundamental positions. Rumi establishes this approach in the course of what I would call "frequent authorial interlocutions." Often, these "detours" from the main story argue in a fundamentally different mode and do not result in clear logical and rational conclusions; i.e. two plus two rarely, if ever, adds up to a four.
Such interludes, then, play a subversive role and compel the readers/listeners, not only to retrace their steps to confirm who the speaker or the protagonist of the story is, but they also serve to introduce the optimum amount of discomfort thus forcing a reappraisal of their own long-held, unquestioned assumptions.
For the purpose of this article, though, I do treat “macaronic” and mulammaat as near synonyms, meaning multilingual combinations of various types because that is how the term and the phenomenon are under-stood in most contemporary writings. However, it is important to note here that the Arabic and the Persian literary traditions, particularly the poetic traditions had, early on, developed various devices through which poetic and prose compositions incorporated quotations and insertions that were sometimes in a different language. Foremost in the category of the rhetorical devices which, at times, allow a combination of two or more languages are the group of devices that enabled writers and poets to insert direct quotes from the Quran, Hadith, poetry of previous poets, proverbs, etc. Tadmin, quotations or insertions from religious, ethical and general secular literature inclusive of poetry from previ-ous poets is the general designation of this category to which belong iqtibas, the insertion of verses or fragments of verses from the Quran; irsal-i mithal (mathal) or tamthil, insertion of proverbs; and talmih, allusions, rather than direct quotes or insertions.
Her paper applied Mikhail Bakhtin's insights about the role that travestying forms play in shaping the worldview of mainstream literary enterprise to a couple of stories from Rumi's Mathnawi to illustrate the interplay of dialogic imagination and normative morality.
Nargis Virani (Washington University at St. Louis)
- Virani (Rumi's Mulammaat) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1117397.html
- Virani (God's Nightingale) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1120880.html
- Virani (Macaronic Lyrical Poetry in Jalaluddin Rumi's Diwan: Idiosyncratic or Subversive?) - http://www.iis.ac.uk/view_article.asp?ContentID=103743
Other macaronic works:
- LangauageHat (Macaronic Poetry) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1117574.html
- John Moyne (Rumi's Greek Poetry) - http://hojja-nusreddin.livejournal.com/1112724.html