I have never touched her: the body in Al-Ghazal Al-‘Udhri
Alharthi, Jokha Mohammed
Al-ghazal al-‘udhri emerged as a remarkable literary genre in Arabic literature during the Umayyad period (7th-8th centuries CE). The leaders of this genre are famous poet-lovers who were known for their dramatic love stories and unique poetry, such as Majnun Layla, Qays Lubna and Jamil Buthaynah. There is a common presumption of the absence of the concept of the body in al-ghazal al-‘udhri; most scholars to date have only reproduced commonly- held ideas about the purity of ‘udhri love without doubting its supposed chastity. This thesis, however, argues that the body has a privileged position in al-ghazal al-‘udhri. It shows that the body’s presence is represented, realistically or allegorically, in various ways, both in anecdotes ascribed to ‘udhri poets as well as in their poetry. Although some critics have discussed the theme of the ‘depiction of the beloved’s body’, it is the contribution of this study to illuminate the ‘ethereal nature of beauty’ in this depiction. Moreover, this thesis provides a discussion about the symbolic body in ‘udhri poetry. It provides a departure from the prevailing views on the ‘udhri phenomenon in studies of classical Arabic literature. It opens the door to new discussions on the relationship between love poetry and Arab society in the classical age. It is also a contribution to literary studies of representations of the body.