Please choose one of the topics below to address in a three-page paper.  Please illustrate your points with textual citations from the poems.  Always provide textual evidence for your arguments.

The paper is due on Tuesday, February 25th, by 5:00pm.  Please send your paper to me via email ( as a pdf file.

Please take a look at the technical guidelines for the paper here.


1) Describe how the representation of the natural environment reflects the different moods and thematic content of the three different sections of the qasida (nasibrihla and “boast”), using examples from any of the poems that you have read in Desert Tracings.  How do different representations of the desert reinforce the distinct emotional tone of the three sections?

2) Contrast the representation of the desert in the poems by two or more of the following poets: al-Shanfara (DT, p. 24-31), Labid (DT, p. 35-44) and Dhu al-Rumma (DT, p. 70-76). What do you think that these contrasts say about the different meanings of the poems?

3) As Michael Sells notes (Desert Tracings, p. 4-5) metaphors in the pre-Islamic qasida often overrun their “bounds,” leading from one metamorphosis to another through a chain of digressions and associations.  Identify three such extended metaphors in any of the poems from Desert Tracings and describe what purpose these extended metaphors serve in terms of the overall meaning of the poem.