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Eroticism, Attar's Conference of the Birds, Attar's Mantiqu't-Tair


Farídu’d-Dín Ἁṭṭār’s The Speech of the Birds employs transgressive erotic imagery in multiple sub-tales in ways that both enhance the frame tale’s significance and suggest that persistent, discrete categories of love poetry and religious poetry are untenable as far as Ἁṭṭār’s works are concerned. Eroticism in Ἁṭṭār’s work paradoxically elicits shock and supports orthodoxy, sometimes simultaneously. In the narrative of Shaikh-i Sam’ān religious taboos are broken by a Muslim shaikh devoted to a Christian beloved who spurns him continuously. In “The Princess and the Beautiful Slave-Boy” eroticism is overtly presented as a metaphor for temporary, ecstatic union with the divine. In the “The Vazir’s Beautiful Son” heteronormativity is cast aside in order to delineate a narrative example of spiritual growth, suffering, and ultimately spiritual mystery. Ἁṭṭār’s The Speech of the Birds employs eroticism as a tool to dislocate the spiritual seeker as well as a metaphor to explicate the emotional valence of what it means to suffer in pursuit of divine unity. Each of these sub-tales also offer confirmation that spiritual struggle is a communal, not individual process.