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Blatherwick, Helen (2019) '‘And The Light in his Eyes Grew Dark’: The Representation of Anger in Arabic Popular Epic.' Cultural History, 8 (2). pp. 226-247.

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Abstract

Sīrat Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan is a late-medieval Egyptian popular epic that tells the story of the foundation of Egypt and conquest of the world by its hero, the Yemeni king Sayf. It is one of a group of narratives known as the siyar shaʿbiyya, Arabic popular epics or romances. As a genre, their core concerns are issues of identity, the collective anxieties of the social unit, and that unit’s struggle to maintain its integrity. Sīrat Sayf explores these issues in large part through the thematic use of gender, according to which the male, patriarchal forces of order are in tension with the female forces of chaos in an unstable and perpetually shifting balance that must be kept in equilibrium. In this context, open displays of strong emotions by its main protagonists can take on a particularly threatening aspect in the text. This article investigates the representation of anger in Sīrat Sayf, focusing first on the extent to which it can be described as gendered, and the significance of this for an understanding of both how male and female anger are conceptualised in the text and their respective roles in its textual dynamics. It then explores the part played by anger in an episode in which King Sayf offers the choice of conversion to Islam or death to a defeated enemy. In this small but key extract, the normally formulaic ‘conversion narrative’ becomes a highly emotionally charged encounter, during which characters are driven by anger to break with narrative conventions and behave in unexpected ways. This ‘emotional manipulation’ of literary conventions, which is achieved partly through the manipulation of gendered emotional codes, is one of the ways in which the narrative is able to give voice to the tensions surrounding issues of self and other, and communal identity, but also has implications for our understanding of the social codes depicted in the text.

Item Type: Journal Article
Keywords: Arabic popular literature, Sīrat Sayf ibn Dhī Yazan, women in popular literature, emotions and emotional practices in the sīras, emotions in Arabic popular literature, anger and gender, Islamic conversion narratives.
SOAS Departments & Centres: Departments and Subunits > School of Languages, Cultures & Linguistics
Subjects: P Language and Literature
ISSN: 20452918
Copyright Statement: © 2019. Edinburgh University Press. This is the accepted manuscript of an article published by Edinburgh University Press in Cultural History, available online: https://doi.org/10.3366/cult.2019.0201
DOI (Digital Object Identifier): https://doi.org/10.3366/cult.2019.0201
Date Deposited: 26 Jun 2019 12:20
URI: https://eprints.soas.ac.uk/id/eprint/30444
Related URLs: https://www.eup ... ng.com/loi/cult

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