The Narrative Structure of Ambiguity
A Semiotic Analysis of a Tawriya-Epigram by Ibn al-ʿAṭṭār (d. 794/1392)
This paper engages in a semiotic analysis of a tawriya-epigram by Šihāb al-Dīn b. al-yAṭṭār (d. 794/1392). Mamluk literature is renowned for its extended usage of rhetorical figures, above all the tawriya ‘double entendre’. My goal is to shed light on tawriya, taking into account the Arabic classical theory and presenting a new approach based on semiotics. The subject of my analysis is what was the most flourishing literary genre of the epoch: the epigram. Within the epigram, the tawriya plays a pivotal role. Its potential is not limited to the engendering of a twofold reading of the text but rather goes further and creates a second text out from the first, both of which cooperate with one another and shed light upon their respective meanings. Therefore, the epigram by Ibn al-ʿAṭṭār is a construction of several texts, each of which is mutually linked and deeply-rooted in the social and physical environment depicted in the poem: the ḥammām.