SUMMARY:In discussing space and place, authors position themselves physically, temporally, and socially, and reflect on their ideological concerns. When it comes to writing literary history, the examination of pre-modern conceptions of geography therefore offers a way of interrogating those modern scholarly narratives which impose the temporal and spatial interests of modern nationalism on the texts of the past.
Geography is a particularly salient issue in the study of pre-modern Persian literature, because literary networks extended over much of Eurasia. This point has been recognized repeatedly in recent publications. Historians of literature and culture have grappled with the question of space theoretically, by investigating ideas of the ‘Persianate’ (Green 2019; Amanat and Ashraf 2019; d’Hubert and Papas 2019; Kia 2020); and practically, by close-reading different kinds of pre-modern texts: travelogues (Alam and Subrahmanyam 2007); biographical anthologies of poetry, known as tazkiras (Smith 2009; Sharma 2012; Kia 2014; Schwartz 2020); and the collected works of individual poets (Ingenito 2018; Mikkelson 2017).
The present panel is designed to enhance these findings by examining three Persian anthologies which date from the mid-sixteenth century to the end of the seventeenth century. These are works of literary historiography which ostensibly document, but inevitably offer a subjective representation of, the location of major and minor players of the literary scene, the centers of textual production, and networks of writers, patrons, critics and audiences, as they were known to the compilers. The three texts that we have chosen were produced in Iran and Khurasan; Mughal North India; and the Deccan, elucidating coeval views on the locus of literary authority from different geographical vantage points.
Our common approach is a holistic one which examines these works in their entirety, uncovering the ways in which the entries are connected to one another and piecing together the compilers’ mental maps of their literary worlds. In addition to reconstructing the intellectual and literary genealogies which the anthologies document, we also pay attention to the verse that they transmit, and demonstrate what the choice of these particular poems is designed say about the state of literature, the leading writers of each generation, and the centers of literary innovation – all key issues for the anthologists. Taken as a group, the papers offer fresh perspectives on the seismic shifts that affected how Persian literary texts were produced, disseminated and received during the early modern period.