He Desires Her? Situating Nazhun's Muwashshaha in an Androgynous Aesthetic of Courtly Love


by Marle Hammond [Oxford]


SUMMARY: The muwashshaha by the twelfth-century Granadan poet Nazhun is, to my knowledge, the only extant Andalusian muwashshaha to be attributed to a woman. Its very existence challenges our notions about the form in that most discussions of woman's voice in this particular brand of strophic love song are limited to the kharja or 'final refrain' where male poets frequently cite the words of a female speaker. Here, woman's voice is the authorial voice and cannot be relegated to the kharja. Those of us who are interested in the dynamics of écriture feminine might latch on to the composition's unique status and be tempted to read it as a kind of feminist subversion of a masculine paradigm. Yet there are very few clues in the text itself as to the sex of the poet. Moreover, the aesthetic of the muwashshah, especially in its more refined and less bawdy manifestations, is replete with sexual ambiguity, and the gender roles associated with the personas of the poet and the beloved are rarely clearly delineated. Nazhun's poem therefore poses a dilemma: how may we – and why should we – read it as a woman's text?


Marle Hammond

St John’s College,