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CMRS-CEGS Research Seminar: Iranian 250
Prashant Keshavmurthy (McGill University)
“Reading Nizāmī Ganjavī as a Novelist”
Neither the Byzantines nor the Persians had any generic name for the Greek and Persian novels that were composed in the 12th century. Beholden to older (Attic Greek and Abbasid Arabic) models, the taxonomies of literary forms in both geographically adjacent literary cultures lagged behind the innovations of literary practice. Neither did Constantinopolitan literary culture, centered in the courts of the Komnenian dynasty, produce any theoretical reflection on Theodore Prodromos’s sudden revival of the ancient Greek novel in the 1130s, nor did Persian-Arabic rhetoric (balāghat) register Nizami of Ganja’s novelistic retellings of ancient Persian-Arabic tales in the 1160s-90s.
And yet, scholarship on Nizami has failed to read him as a novelist because it has failed to recognize the parodies and ironizations of multiple genres in two of his quintet of poems. This paper sets up a comparison of Theodore Prodromos’s Rhodanthe and Dosikles and Nizami’s Leylī u Majnūn, (while remarking in passing on the novelistic perversions of the law in Haft paikar) arguing that both belong to what Mikhail Bakhtin called “the prehistory of novelistic discourse”. Prodromos ironized the ancient Greek novel to induce laughter at rhetorical artifice, his ekphrastic episodes working as reflections on the nature of craft. Nizami turned Majnūn, an Abbasid-Buyid pastoral ideal, into a barbarian locus of authenticity to induce reflection on the commodification of the qaṣīda or panegyric in Seljuq courts. The paper concludes by remarking on the stakes of reading Nizami as a novelist and on the divergence in the subsequent careers of the Greek and Persian novel.
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.
Monday, April 18 at 9:00 am Pacific Time
Register here for online attendance on Zoom.