[P4944] Noticing the Details: Approaches to Close Reading of the Persian Tazkira Tradition

Created by Jane Mikkelson
Sunday, 11/19/17 3:30pm


Persian tazkiras (biographical dictionaries, or compendia of notices concerning the lives of poets and other notable figures) have long formed the factual backbone of modern scholarship on the Persian literary tradition. As major sources of information about poets' lives and works, tazkiras "constitute the only form of literary history created by the tradition itself" (J.T.P de Bruijn). Following recent important reappraisals of this genre, this panel presents a variety of approaches to recovering the wider cultural, historical, literary-critical, political, and other offerings that lie beneath bio-bibliographical surface of the Persian tazkira tradition.

The first paper poses the important question of how tazkiras were researched and composed; by closely reading Malik Shah Husayn Sistani's "Khayr al-bayan," this paper investigates the kinds of sources the author drew upon, this tazkira's complex publication history, and the author's writing process. The second paper analyzes two tazkiras from the late seventeeth century from the perspective of literary and cultural history, Tahir Nasrabadi's "Tazkira-yi Nasrabadi" and Muhammad Afzal Sarkhush's "Kalimat al-shu'ara'"; through comparison of their priorities and practices, this paper illuminates the similarities and differences between trends and practices in two important centers in Iran and India, respectively. The third paper extrapolates and compares the explicit and implicit arguments articulated in two early modern tazkiras by literary critics from India and two by Iranians concerning the nature of literary style, the centrality of figurations such as metaphor and ambiguity to the evaluation of poetry, and the connections between style and geographical belonging. The fourth paper turns to a later moment in Persianate culture, investigating the sources and methods behind Sadr al-Din 'Ayni's 1926 "Sampler of Tajik Literature" (Namuna-yi adabiyat-i Tajik) and Khaliq Mirza-zadah's 1940 "Samples of Tajik Literature" (Namuna-ha-yi adabiyat-i Tajik); by situating these Stalinist anthologies of Tajik literature alongside their antecedents and contemporaneous projects elsewhere in the Persianate world, this paper demonstrates how interconnected these national literary projects actually were, and reveals remarkable continuities behind the methodological shift in the modern period from tazkira to anthology, textbook, and chrestomathy.

One theme that emerges from these papers is that any deeper understanding of the tazkira tradition must emerge from nuanced close reading of tazkiras themselves. Only by reading between the lives, as it were, can we hope to retrieve the tradition's own arguments about method, style, history, and value.






Mana Kia

(Columbia University)
Mana Kia’s interests are the early modern and modern connective social, cultural, intellectual histories of West, Central and South Asia from the 17th - 19th centuries, with a particular focus on Indo-Persian literary culture and social history. Her...
Panel Participating Role(s): Discussant;

Alexander Jabbari

(University of Oklahoma)
Alexander Jabbari is the Farzaneh Family Assistant Professor of Persian Language and Literature in the department of International and Area Studies at the University of Oklahoma. His research addresses historical interaction between Persian and other...
Panel Participating Role(s): Chair;

Theodore Beers

(University of Chicago)
Theodore (or Theo for short) is a PhD candidate in the Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations at the University of Chicago, focusing on classical Persian literature and Iranian history, especially in the Timurid and Safavid periods.
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Jane Mikkelson

(University of Chicago)
Jane is a PhD Candidate at the University of Chicago, pursuing a joint degree in the departments of South Asian Languages and Civilizations and Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. Her dissertation, "Worlds of the Imagination: Time, Space, and Mind...
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;

Samuel Hodgkin

(University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Shaahin Pishbin

(University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;