The Zajal: Popular Poetry and the struggle over Lebanon's history

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Druze historiography in modern Lebanon has developed in leaps and bounds since the early 1980s and has burst the confines of the written text to resonate in poetic and popular literature. One of the best examples of the latter is zajal, specifically the work of amdān, considered the greatest of contemporary Lebanese Druze popular poets. This study is based on still un-consulted oral poetry, principally in the form of cassette recordings of amdān's poetry to be found in Druze villages in Israel and Lebanon. The diffusion of Druze narrative into zajal poetry may be interpreted in two different ways: as a unique phenomenon of intertextuality between written texts and oral tradition, or as a manifestation of oral tradition. The present paper focuses on the correspondence between the contents of the written historiography and the ideological and historical meanings contained in amdān's poetry. Furthermore, it demonstrates how amdān employs his poetic talents to present the Druze narrative while simultaneously conducting a polemic against the Maronite establishment, historiography, and politics. The similarity in content between the written texts and the oral poetry assumes the existence of a dialog between the historiographical texts and the ongoing cultural and social process on the one hand and between the oral poetry and the written text on the other.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)169-188
Number of pages20
JournalMiddle Eastern Literatures
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Aug 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Literature and Literary Theory


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