From Epic to Gnostic
Observations on Dynamics of Change in Persian Poetry
As we know it today, Persian literature emerges in the tenth century CE with a dominant discourse that tends to explore the world and man’s surroundings, to look, question and explore the phenomena of external nature, of human life, and of relations among humans and other inhabitants and phenomena of the earth. In time, primarily through the 12th century, this dynamic changes gradually and begins to get into a more complex expressive system in which explorations are directed more toward understanding the “interior” and hidden aspects of objects and relations, animals and humans. This is the process that leads from direct, objective observations to contemplations of the “nafs” in the mystic tradition, and is exemplified most visibly by the type of struggle that personages such as `Attar’s Shaykh San`an face, when compared to the divs, dragons and demons that a hero like Rostam confronts; or one that leads from the kind of figuration we see in the Shahnameh’s Simorgh to that in the Conference of the Birds. I have called this change “interiorization”, and in my talk I will present examples of this change and share my thoughts on its causes and consequences, as well as its ultimate significance for conceptualizing a new historiography of Persian literature.
Professor Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak
Ahmad Karimi-Hakkak is a public intellectual and an internationally acclaimed scholar of the literatures and cultures of Iran, the Middle East, and the Persianate world, including Iranian Diaspora in the Europe and the United States. He has published twenty-two books and over one hundred scholarly articles on classical and modern Persian poetry and prose in Iran and the Persian-speaking countries, such as Afghanistan and Tajikistan, and some of his works have been translated into several languages. His 1995 monograph Recasting Persian Poetry: Scenarios of Poetic Modernity in Iran is now standard textbook in Iranian and American universities. He is an avid translator, and has translated important English works into Persian and Persian works into English. He also has extensive experience in building academic programmes in Iran and the United States. His most recent success, The Centre for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland (2004), now renamed The Roshan Institute for Persian Studies, is a testimony to his leadership in research, networking, administration and outreach