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CMRS-CEGS Research Seminar: Iranian 250
Justine Landau (Sorbonne)
“An Epic Tribute to the Lyric Poem”
Poetry does things with words. In the premodern world, this fact is perhaps nowhere acknowledged more unanimously than in the Persianate sources. Chief among the arts of language, lyric poetry is associated with “licit magic,” after the Arabic saying, since its mastery is said to conduce to “the accomplishment of great things in the order of the world” (Nezâmi ‘Aruzi, Chahâr maqâle, II). The philosophers of the classical period discussed the powers of the poetic art and its unique effect on the imagination. In Arabic and in Persian, the successors of Fârâbi developed the doctrine of the “poetic syllogism” to account for its workings. Writing in the mid-thirteenth century, Nasir al-Din Tusi provides a striking account of why “good poems are more effective than sermons” in impressing the minds of the listeners. Yet, from Beyhaqi and Ghazâli to Jâmi and Mollâ Sadrâ, poets, critics, historians, theologians and prose writers all pay homage to the art of the poet in some way. Unsurprisingly, the Shâhnâmeh itself honors the lyric poets. In several instances in his great epic, Ferdowsi stages episodes of lyric performance, and their consequences on the narrative. Whether depicting the craft of minstrels at court, the boasting of heroes or the lament of warriors after a defeat, these scenes sound a distinctive note within the epic verse in which they are embedded. How can a song inform, or deflect, the destiny of kings? And how does Ferdowsi pay tribute to lyric poetry? The philosophers’ perspective might help us elucidate the far-reaching consequences of some remarkable poems in the Book of Kings.
Justine Landau is Associate Professor (Maître de conférences) of Persian Literature at the Université Sorbonne Nouvelle and a member of the Centre de Recherche sur le Monde iranien (CeRMI) in Paris. Her research focuses on classical Persian literature, in particular early Persian court poetry, poetics and literary theory, and comparative literature. Before joining the Sorbonne Nouvelle, she taught at Harvard University and at the University of California in Los Angeles, and was a researcher at the Institute of Iranian Studies of the Austrian Academy of Sciences. Her publications include various articles, book chapters, translations, and a monograph, De rythme & de raison. Lecture croisée de deux traités de poétique persans du XIIIe siècle (Paris: Presses de la Sorbonne Nouvelle, 2013). Her next book project explores the aesthetics of occasion and circumstance in early Persian court poetry.
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.
Tuesday, May 3 at 9:00 am Pacific Time
Register here for online attendance on Zoom.
Image: Kay Kavus and the minstrel, Patna, Khuda Bakhsh Oriental Library, MS H.L. 3787-3788, 1440, 067v.