The Narrative Structure of Ambiguity

A Semiotic Analysis of a Tawriya-Epigram by Ibn al-ʿAṭṭār (d. 794/1392)

Luca Rizzo    Università Ca’ Foscari Venezia, Italia    



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.

Dec. 6, 2018
Sept. 12, 2018
July 6, 2018

Keywords: EpigramSemioticsMamluk AgeḤammāmTawriya

Copyright: © 2018 Luca Rizzo. This is an open-access work distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY). The use, distribution or reproduction is permitted, provided that the original author(s) and the copyright owner(s) are credited and that the original publication is cited, in accordance with accepted academic practice. The license allows for commercial use. No use, distribution or reproduction is permitted which does not comply with these terms.