Faculty Scholarly Dissemination Grants


Ibn Zaydun and the Poetics of Nostalgia


Modern Languages & Literatures Department


College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Date Range





This paper will examine the poetry of Ibn Zaydun (d. 1091), one of the most celebrated poets in al-Andalus. Ibn Zaydun lived during a turbulent period of the history of the Arab presence in the Iberian Peninsula, following the civil war that erupted in the early 11th century, which led to the fragmentation of the central Umayyad authority and the rise of various petty kings with smaller kingdoms throughout Andalusia. While Ibn Zaydun is famous for ghazal (love poetry), particularly to his beloved Walladah bint al-Mustakfi, my intention is to examine his most important poem, the nuniyyah that he composed to Walladah, not only as an expression of love to Walladah, but also as an expression of nostalgia, specifically to the Umayyad Caliphate, which epitomized stability, and which, ironically, Ibn Zaydun had an active role in ending. I would like to argue, then, that his famous nuniyyah, described by some critics as the most famous love poem in Arabic poetry, while directed to Walladah and primarily read as an expression of love, is not simply and only about love for Walladah. To that end, I will read Ibn Zaydun nuniyyah as symbolic of a larger and more profound loss. This conclusion is consistent with Ibn Zaydun own life journey, particularly his own feelings of isolation from his beloved city Cordova. The study will examine the anecdotes surrounding the relationship between Ibn Zaydun and Walldah, particularly the ones appearing in the al-Dhakhirah and the Ibn Khaqans Qalaid al-Iqyan. The paper will also build on a variety of research on Ibn Zaydun, but will also make use of new studies on Arabic literature, including Samer Ali Arabic Literary Salons in the Islamic Middle Ages and Raymond Farrin Abundance from the Desert: Classical Arabic Poetry.

Conference Name

American Oriental Society Annual Meeting

Conference Location

Portland, OR

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