Ryoko Sekiguchi’s Muwashshaḥ
Ryoko Sekiguchi’s Héliotropes is deeply informed by Giorgio Agamben and Daniel Heller-Roazen’s work on the ‘end of the poem’ and on ‘speaking in tongues,’ and so Sekiguchi perfectly unites classical Arabic literature, modernist poetics, and contemporary philosophical and critical inquiry into prosody. As the youngest of the five authors studied in Pacifist Invasions, she draws on recent innovations in critical poetic theory, and the complex linguistic, prosodic and thematic arrangements of the muwashshaḥa and the history of its scholarship. Her poetry provides a spectacular, particularly poignant exemplar for where we may begin with the language question, now that we have ended. Her solution to the inescapable problems facing French poetics represents an extreme departure: to exit altogether the Francophone literary idiom, and back toward its beginning as prise de conscience or ‘awakening,’ mediated by a Franco-Arabic tradition of unprecedented poetic innovation. Her Franco-Arabic composition deforms and unfurls a language undone. As with Saussure and Stétié’s aporetic notion of a ‘pacifist invasion’ of language, with Sekiguchi this linguistic transformation takes less the form of Francophonie’s initial surrealism- tinged linguistic destruction than a rediscovery and resurrection within and through a French language surface of classical Arabic literature and mystical Islam and Sufism. In this light, the poetics of the muwashshaḥa marks an exceptional site of transference between languages in passage, a liminal moment of transit where languages are placed at one another’s thresholds, freely interwoven into one another, becoming other languages, becoming something other than language as such, that is, characterized by a basic correspondence between visual sign and uttered sense.
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