Ibn Ḥamdīs and the poetry of nostalgia : a rhetoric of collective memory



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Nostalgia is a term that is often used in literature and popular culture to connote an individual’s relation to a specific place, time or object, however, despite its use in literary analysis, it is often overlooked as a rhetorical devise employed to connect to, persuade, and influence an audience. This paper analyzes the poetry of Arabo-Siculo poet Ibn Ḥamdīs and his use of nostalgia in his poetry to influence and persuade his audiences abroad. I look to the sociologists Fred Davis and Svetlana Boym and their descriptions of nostalgia as being either public or private, restorative or reflective. Drawing on these terms, I propose that Ibn Ḥamdīs writes a relational nostalgia, that is, a nostalgia that he writes into his poetry not just for cathartic, personal benefit, but as a persuasive, rhetorical measure for his audience, and in this way he builds a collective, shared memory between himself and his audience. In addition to nostalgia, I will also be looking to Suzanne Stetkevych and Samer Ali and their work on the socio-political nature of Arabo-Islamic poetry to see how Ibn Ḥamdīs creates and employs this relational nostalgia for his audience and the effect it has on them.