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CMRS-CEGS Research Seminar: Iranian 250
Paul Losensky (Indiana University)
“A Common Thread: Three Literary Careers in Early Modern Persia, England, and Spain”
The emergence of the concept of the Global Renaissance has brought new attention to the political, diplomatic, economic, and artistic connections between major civilizational centers in the early modern period. For the most part, however, literature has remained on the sidelines of this discussion. The talk will consider the stakes and challenges of bringing the vast Persophone literary sphere into conversation with contemporary literatures of Europe. It examines the lives and works of three poets who rose to the heights of literary fame from mercantile and craft families that were involved, in one way or another, with cloth and clothing: the Persian poet Mohtasham Kashani (1528-1588), the English poet Edmund Spenser (1552-1599), and the Spanish poet Lope de Vega (1562-1635). Following this “common thread,” I will examine the economic and social circumstances in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries that allowed for this kind of social mobility in both Iran and Europe and how they effected literary institutions in three nations separated by religion and language, resulting in broadly commensurate poetic cultures that can be profitably woven together in comparative dialogue.
Paul Losensky (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1993) is Professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he teaches Persian language and literature, comparative studies of Western and Middle Eastern literatures, and translation studies. His research focusses on Persian literary historiography, biographical writing, and the Fresh-Style poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His publications include Welcoming Fighāni: Imitation and Poetic Individuality in the Safavid-Mughal Ghazal (1998), Farid ad-Din ‘Attār’s Memorial of God’s Friends: Lives and Sayings of Sufis (2009), and In the Bazaar of Love: Selected Poems of Amir Khusrau (2013, with Sunil Sharma). He has authored numerous articles on Persian literature for journals such as Iranian Studies and contributed to Encyclopedia of Islam and Encyclopaedia Iranica. He is a former fellow at the National Humanities Center.
Iranian 250, “Persian Literature in English Translation: Global and Interdisciplinary Perspectives,” taught by Associate Professor Domenico Ingenito (NELC), offers a survey of medieval and early modern Persian literature in English translation. The seminar fosters interdisciplinary conversations among graduate students from a plurality of departments and programs, including Islamic Studies, Gender Studies, History, Art History, Global Medieval and Renaissance Studies, English, and Comparative Literature. All sessions will be held in English, and students with no prior knowledge of Persian are welcome to enroll. Twice a month, international scholars will deliver lectures focusing on their current research trajectories. Key topics: epics and ethnic identity, philosophical poetics and occasion, mysticism and performative queerness, Judeo-Islamic literary intersections, ideals of beauty and lyric performance, literary modernity from Ottoman Turkey to Moghul India, German romantic and modernist appropriations of the Persian poetic canon, etc. In collaboration with the UCLA Program of Iranian Studies.
Thursday, May 19 at 9:00 am Pacific Time
Register here for online attendance on Zoom.
Image: Painting from Baysunghur’s manuscript of Sa’di’s Gulistan, Herat. Chester Beatty Library, Dublin.