‘I tear my shirt up’ / ‘أمزق قميصي’/ ‘Yo me rompo mi camisa’: Songs on the Verge of Madness

  • Cristina Navazo-Eguia Newton Creative and Critical Writing PhD student at Cardiff University; United Kingdom
Keywords: madness, Medieval Arab, flamenco, singing, ṭarab, duende, rhizomatic, cross-cultural


The long Arab presence in the Iberian Peninsula left significant marks which still surface in unexpected forms. My research investigates points of convergence between the Arab Middle Ages and contemporary Western culture. In this paper, I explore the theme of madness across Medieval Arab texts and the world and lyrics of flamenco, with the aim of elucidating and further understanding possible convergences. I use a cross-disciplinary, rhizomatic epistemological model adapted from the concept coined by Deleuze and Guattari that embraces the heterogenous quality of cultural experience and the nonbinary nature of knowledge and considers cultural manifestations as ‘rhizomes’ that run beyond hierarchical, closed systems and one-directional single narratives, producing a multitude of connections in any direction and with ‘anything other’. This approach is particularly fruitful where philosophy and religion, science and aesthetics, psychology and politics, and the social and anthropological forms have complex multiplanar entanglements, as is the case in the present study. The image of tearing one’s shirt up from the title, common to medieval Arabic and contemporary Spanish flamenco cultures, alludes to paroxysm or mental derangement from overwhelming emotion or intense aesthetic experience (ṭarab) and is one example from my initial findings that will be discussed in this paper.

Special Issue on Medicine in the Mirror of Arabic and World Literature