Spiritual Discourse: Learning with an Islamic Master

Overview

Far from Ottoman Turkey and the Balkans, an expanded farmhouse in southern Michigan provides the secure if improbable setting for Baba Rexheb and his Islamic Bektashi community. This is also the setting for Spiritual Discourse, a study of the process by which Baba Rexheb, a ninety-year-old Albanian leader of the Bektashi order, and Frances Trix, an American student who has studied with him for over twenty years, come to share a common universe of experience and attunement. The focus of the study is one lesson ...
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Overview

Far from Ottoman Turkey and the Balkans, an expanded farmhouse in southern Michigan provides the secure if improbable setting for Baba Rexheb and his Islamic Bektashi community. This is also the setting for Spiritual Discourse, a study of the process by which Baba Rexheb, a ninety-year-old Albanian leader of the Bektashi order, and Frances Trix, an American student who has studied with him for over twenty years, come to share a common universe of experience and attunement. The focus of the study is one lesson with Baba - a lesson that is rich in poetry and parable, narrative and face-saving humor. As Trix seeks to understand how Baba teaches, she contextualizes the lesson internally in terms of episodes and dialogic patterns, and externally in terms of the societal, personal, and ritual histories it presumes. Overall what is being passed on is not facts but a relationship, for the relationship of "seeker" and "master" mirrors that of human and God. Yet on a more immediate level, Baba teaches through a highly personalized, recursive sort of language "play" that engenders current attention while constantly evoking an ever-growing shared past. For scholars of discourse and interaction, the study contributes the central concept of "language attunement" - a form of "linguistic convergence" that operates not at the level of speech community, but rather at the level of dialogic encounter, and that occurs most often among people who have long interacted. For scholars of Islam and religious studies, the study represents a rare application of sociolinguistics to transmission of spiritual knowledge. The importance of oral interaction in such transmission has long been appreciated, but the conceptual framework and methodology for its analysis have been lacking. An ethnography of learning, a sociolinguistics of mysticism, above all Spiritual Discourse illuminates the process of interpersonal encounter. It is a story gracefully and unpretentiously told.
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Product Details

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Note on Vagaries of Spelling
Prologue in which the frustration of a student after many years of study discreetly erupts 1
I Introduction
Master-Student Relations 6
The Lesson 12
Language Attunement 18
Maps of the Study 25
II The Interactive Structure of Episodes in a Lesson
Where the Lesson Breathes 31
The Withholding of Affirmation 39
Openings and Closings of Early Episodes 57
Pattern and Pivot of Later Episodes 73
III Keying Interaction with Baba
Preliminary to Keying: "Knowing of His Not Knowing" 85
The Keying: "This Is Not a Joust" 89
IV Texture of Interaction with Baba
Drawing on Each Other's Language 108
The Resonance of Retelling 119
The Learning of "Sophistry" and the Pleasure in "Misfortune" 124
V Bektashi Frame of Learning
In Search of a Frame for the Lesson 132
In Search of Muhabbet 133
VI Learning as Attunement
Forms of Figures of Attunement 146
The Walls of the Lesson 156
Epilogue in which a student follows the master through the streets and achieves attunement in a most precarious fashion 158
Notes 159
Appendix A. Conventions of Transcription 167
Appendix B. Turkish Texts of Nefes 169
Appendix C. Features of West Rumelian Turkish, Baba's Dialect 173
Bibliography 177
Index 187
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