The takhallus as a marker of poetic performance

By Domenico Ingenito
Submitted to Session P3711 (Through the Poet's "I"s: Authorship and the Creation of Literary Selfhood in the Persian Pen Name, 2014 Annual Meeting
7th-13th Centuries;
LCD Projector without Audio;
Why do Persian poets mention their pen name at the end of a ghazal as if they were adopting someone (or something) else’s voice? Is this a mere rhetorical artifice of authorial embellishment, or does it perhaps suggest some deeper textual architecture yet to be fully understood by our modern perspective?
Apart from the analytical surveys elaborated by Meisami and other scholars, our understanding of takhallus – the pen name with which classical Persian poets used to sign the final part of their lyrical texts – still lacks a thorough theoretical approach able to penetrate its deeper socio-aesthetic mechanisms. In fact, the simplistic bias that sets an identity between the self of the pre-modern author, his takhallus and the so called “lyrical I” belongs to a static perspective unable to explain the historical development of this signature and the performative context in which it creates an unique interaction between the text, the world, and the author.
In the first part of this paper I will focus on the peculiar use that praise poets of the Samanid and Ghaznavid period made of their pen name within the structure of the qasida as a link between the aesthetic and the political in the transition from the nasib to the madh. I will then relate these archaic instances of takhallus to the emergence of early ghazals as aesthetically and functionally independent texts originally stemming from the space of the qasida. This analysis will be furthered by the examination of the use of deictics in order to ascertain to what extent the takhallus can be considered as a marker of a performative context and a fictitious projection of the author, able to stand in a space between history and literary creation.