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History: Religious and Cultural Studies – Onart

Adnan Onart


History: Religious and Cultural Studies

End of Language, Beginning of Poetry: An Inquiry to the theme of Limitation of Language in the Re-Created Poetry of Rumi

Options: Potential for UROP Funding

“The limits of my language mean the limits of my world” (Die Grenzen meiner Sprache bedeuten die Grenzen meiner Welt.) asserts the 5.6 proposition of Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. The incapacity of our language to express the mystical experience has been as common theme within Sufi literature and Rumi was not an exception in that regard. This inquiry uses some basic concepts from contemporary philosophy of language, in particular of Ludwig Wittgenstein to establish a framework. Using this framework, the inquiry proceeds with the analysis of the re-creational translations of Rumi’s poetry. (We use the term “re-creational translation” to refer to non-scholarly rendering of poetry whose primary concern is not the literal transposition, but making the original poems accessible to the sensitivity of readers from another culture, from another era. In the case of Rumi we classify the translations of Coleman Barks, Robert Bly and Kabir Helminski under this category! ).

This inquiry will proceed in the three stages: In the first one, the researcher will familiarize himself or herself with the contemporary ideas about expressability and effability in the philosophy of language. In the second stage, an analysis of the text will locate verses where Rumi addresses the limitation of the language — directly and indirectly. In the third stage, a close attention will be paid to the poetical techniques used by the translators to push the limitations of prosaic language. The conclusion will consist of the comparison of mystical ideas of ineffability as voiced by Rumi relate to the linguistic concepts of contemporary philosophy and whether the poetry opens a new level of expressability that is not available in the ordinary language.