• TRANSCENDING THE FEMININE: NEGOTIATING GENDER IN THE MYSTICISM OF IBN AL-‘ARABĪ AND FRANCIS OF ASSISI

      Blankinship, Khalid Yahya; Alpert, Rebecca T. (Rebecca Trachtenberg), 1950-; Bregman, Lucy; Goldblatt, Eli (Temple University. Libraries, 2015)
      Explorations of how "the feminine" functions in the systematic mystical theology of Ibn al-ʿArabī (1165-1240) begin, in English, with Reynold Nicholson's early 20th century analysis of Tarjumān al-Ashwāq and extend through the work of dozens of scholars since then, most notably Henry Corbin, Toshihiko Izutsu, William Chittick, Sachiko Murata and Sa'diyya Shaikh. (Of course, one could argue that such studies in Arabic reach back as far as his foremost disciple al-Qunawi, and his foremost critic, Ibn Tamiyya. St. Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) shares with the Shaykh a general historical context as well as a famously passionate devotion to mystical practice as a strategy for achieving proximity to God. He, too, has engendered scholarly interest in his attitude toward women and the feminine as intrinsic to making that ascent, and not just among his earliest hagiographers, but through hundreds of interpreters since, most recently André Vauchez and Jacques Dalarun. Yet, despite generations of scholarship on that point, a comparative study of these two mystics has yet to be published. "Transcending the Feminine: Negotiations of Gender in the Mysticism of Ibn al-ʿArabī and Francis of Assisi" endeavors to fill that gap, and in so doing to unpack the distinctive aspects of the saint's and the Shaykh's mystical approaches, demonstrating intersections as well as departure points. Instrumental to that task are the conclusions of feminist scholars focusing on either man, but also--because the question of the feminine is so intimately associated in mystical texts with physical and spiritual desire--such an endeavor is relevant to the psychoanalytical approach to medieval religious texts, one made possible by Sigmund Freud and particularly Jacques Lacan, and then expanded upon by Luce Irigaray and Amy Hollywood. The pathway linking Francis and Ibn al-ʿArabī traverses their mysticisms, their use of metaphorical language, their specific constructions of gender, theologically and poetically, and their surprisingly complementary strategies for underscoring how the physical body emerges as crucial to the mystical ascent. Accordingly, this dissertation navigates the intriguing space in between the two--that is, in Ibn al-ʿArabī's phrasing, the barzakh where the ultimate priorities of one virtually touch those of the other, yet in a way that preserves their contradictions.