Encountering the Divine: Five Mystical Love Poems by Ibn ʿArabi
Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi (1165-1240), 'the greatest master' of Islamic spirituality, wrote several thousand poems, none more famous than the collection of odes which he called the Tarjuman al-ashwaq, 'Interpreter of Ardent Desires'.
Intended for a general audience, this remarkable collection of 61 poems was inspired by his meeting with a beautiful woman in Mecca, and gives voice to the deepest yearning of the human being for divine realities. They are based on the ancient Arab love poetry tradition (qasida), and are full of images of the absent beloved, 'the places haunted by lovers', abandoned campsites, fleeting gazelles, henna-tipped fingers. The prime focus of this love poetry is the encounter with reality in the form of human images.
In this course we will be exploring five of these poems in two different translations, one by Reynold Nicholson (University of Cambridge) published in 1911, and the other by Michael Sells (University of Chicago) published in 2017. We will also look at the author's commentary on the poems, and discuss the relative merits of prose and poetry in articulating love's mysteries.
Term Starts: 23rd January
Background Reading List
Stephen Hirtenstein., The Unlimited Mercifier
Michael Sells., Stations of Desire
Ibn 'Arabi., Tarjuman al-ashwaq, ed.and trans. R. A. Nicholson
Michael Sells., Desert Tracings
Denis McAuley., Ibn 'Arabi's Mystical Poetics
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Course fee: £115.00
Take this course for CATS points: £10.00
Stephen Hirtenstein is a Senior Research Fellow of the Muhyiddin Ibn 'Arabi Society, editor of its Journal, and director of Anqa Publishing. He has been studying the works of Ibn 'Arabi for over 40 years, and has taught courses and seminars worldwide.
To introduce participants to a different form of love poetry, where the prime focus is on the encounter with reality in the forms of human love
1) to examine the theme of human/divine love from various perspectives
2) to explore through group discussion some key aspects of the encounter with reality
3) to assess the contribution of Ibn 'Arabi's insights to modern understandings of love
Tutor-led or student-led introductions to the topics, based on prior reading, and reading of selected source-texts and commentary. Group discussion of key questions raised by the material. The emphasis will be on stimulating discussion, either as a whole class or in smaller groups.
By the end of this course students will be expected to:
a) have a grasp of the basic elements of Ibn 'Arabi's thought
b) have some understanding of Arabic love poetry
c) be able to interpret and evaluate a mystical poem
Students will be able to choose whether to be assessed by Option A, a long written piece (1,000 words), or Option B, a collection of shorter pieces (oral or written) based on the weekly themes, including 5-minute writing tasks and course journal and short presentations.
Students must submit a completed Declaration of Authorship form at the end of term when submitting your final piece of work. CATS points cannot be awarded without the aforementioned form.
To earn credit (CATS points) for your course you will need to register and pay an additional £10 fee for each course you enrol on. You can do this by ticking the relevant box at the bottom of the enrolment form or when enrolling online.
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Level and demands
It would be helpful to understand something of Sufism in general and also Ibn 'Arabi's thought, as a background to approach the meaning in the poetry.
Most of the Department's weekly classes have 10 or 20 CATS points assigned to them. 10 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of ten 2-hour sessions. 20 CATS points at FHEQ Level 4 usually consist of twenty 2-hour sessions. It is expected that, for every 2 hours of tuition you are given, you will engage in eight hours of private study.
Terms and conditions
Terms and conditions for applicants and students on this course
Sources of funding
Information on financial support