Muḥammad al-Māghūṭ’s rhetoric of sincerity: a major voice in modern Arabic poetry

Daniel Behar*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article highlights the poetics of Syrian poet Muḥammad al-Māghūt ̣(1934-2006) as forging a poetic identity enacted as a series of performative contradictions between the empirical and the poetic selves in what amounts to a discourse of “rhetorical sincerity.” This poetic discourse employs a variety of devices to communicate that the irreducibility of Arab life can be contained neither in the polished spheres of art nor in political speech-making. By situating personas close to commonalities of human struggles without subtracting critical distance, al-Māghūṭ negotiates a modernistic consciousness with values of ṣidq (sincerity) and aṣāla (authenticity). Part one develops the concept of poetic sincerity and delineates al-Māghūt'̣s cultural battles. Part two examines al-Māghūt'̣s rhythmic irregularities in “al-Qatl” (The Killing) as a key component in accomplishing the non-literary task of his ṣidq. This interpretation will hopefully elucidate the rationale behind al-Māghūt'̣s import for later poetic generations.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)111-136
Number of pages26
JournalMiddle Eastern Literatures
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

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  • Muḥammad al-Māghūṭ
  • qaṣīdat al-nathr; Syrian literature
  • rhetoric of sincerity
  • shiʿr magazine; poetic realism


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