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Safavi-Homami, Seyed Ghahreman (2003) 'Love the whole and not the part': An investigation of the rhetorical structure of Book One of the "Mathnawi" of Jalal al-Din Rumi. PhD thesis. SOAS University of London. DOI:

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This thesis investigates the narrative and thematic structure of Boole One of the Mathnawi of Jalal al-Din Rumi. The Mathnawi, of the thirteenth century, is one of the most highly acclaimed mystical poems in classical Persian. Consisting of around 26,000 verses, arranged in six books, it has appeared to both traditional and western scholars alike as being randomly composed and lacking in structure or architecture. Since, however, Rumi was a highly skilled poet, able to create any impression he desired, it is improbable he would have written a defective work. When this is coupled with his constant affirmation that the world of appearances is not the real world, there is reason thoroughly to scrutinise both the structure of the work and the scholarly consensus concerning its apparent randomness. This is done here by a detailed analysis of Book One. Rumi has divided each book up into sections of varying lengths, and at the beginning of each section he has given a title. The examination consists of analysing each section to establish its thematic and narrative contents. It then becomes apparent which sections should be taken together to form the larger wholes, which could be called discourses, maqalat, or, since in Book One the narrative element is strong, stories. There are twelve such stories or discourses in Book One. Having established these larger wholes, the analysis then examines the relationships of the sections and their themes to one another within each discourse or story. This yields the major discovery of this thesis: the sections within each story are organised not sequentially, although, of course, one follows another, but synoptically using the two compositional principles of parallelism and chiasmus. This is entirely unexpected. It accounts for the seeming randomness of the sequential reading, while at the same time yielding beautiful structures and organisation when read synoptically. But the synoptic organisation is not simply aesthetically satisfying, it provides equally importantly the patterns of significance and the distribution of emphasis. Not only are the sections of each story organised by parallelism and chiasmus, so, it is argued, is Book One as a whole, so that the stories stand to one another in a similar pattern. Seeing Book One synoptically reveals that the pattern of significance which organises the stories sequentially is the progressive development of the nafs, or self-hood, on the spiritual path. It is further suggested that Book One stands chiasmically in parallel to Book Six. The Mathnawi then is far richer than has hitherto be recognised. In combining the outer randomness of the sequential order with the sophisticated inner organisation of significance and purpose permitted by the use of parallelism and chiasmus, Rumi has reflected in the structuring of his great work his constant message that beneath the empirical world of our senses there lies an inner spiritual world of unity and great beauty. Far from lacking architecture, the Mathnawi, it is argued, is closely planned, integrating the double structuring, the sequential and the synoptic, with the overall message of the work.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses > Proquest
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 16 Oct 2018 15:01

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