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The World of Persian Literary Humanism

The World of Persian Literary Humanism

by Hamid Dabashi


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674066717
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 11/20/2012
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.40(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University.

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From Chapter 5: The Lure and Lyrics of a Literature

The Center and Periphery of the Timurid Empire (1314–1508)

Nizam al-Din Amir Alishir Nava (1441–1501) was a very learned man, a deeply cultivated man, a man of letters, and a man of unsurpassed caring intellect, a powerful patron for artists, the literati, and the scientist of his time. Amir Alishir had a generous and gracious company. He was a humanist par excellence—poet, painter, prose stylist, vastly learned in his contemporary intellectual traditions, and a statesman of exceptional courage, tenacity, and imagination. Imagine his contemporary Lorenzo de’ Medici, Lorenzo the Magnificent, (1449–1492), if you must, turning the Florentine Republic into the epicenter of the Italian Renaissance, and you come close to Amir Alishir Nava'i’s significance at the helm of the vast Timurid Empire, as a wise and judicious vizier, patron of scholars, artists, architects, poets. Born and raised in Herat, the city that later under his judicious and generous care would have made Florence of the time look like a small town way-station, Amir Alishir Nava'i was ambidextrous in his own poetic and literary capabilities and wrote both in his native Chagatai Turkish and also in Persian, the lingua franca of learned cultivation in the Timurid (as all other precious) empire, particularly in Mashhad, Herat, and Samarqand—three vast imperial cosmopoles enriched with the wealth and abuzz with the gifts and talents of the expansive empire.

With the rise of the Timurid Empire (1314–1508), reclaiming what was left of the Mongol empire and recasting it for a renewed imperial dispensation, the center of Persian literary humanism moved further eastward to Samarqand and Heart, two of the most magnificent cosmopoles of the time. If we were to give a nationalistic account of Persian literary humanism, modern day Tajikistan and Afghanistan would have uncontested claim over the entirety of this period—linking it directly all the way back to the Ghaznavid dynasty. But transnational empires, not ethnicized nations—Tajiks, Afghans, Iranians, Arabs, Turks, Indians, etc—were the modus operandi of political order and cultural production in this and other periods. From the Ninth to the Sixteenth century, from the Tahirids (821–873) to the Timurid (1370–1526) dynasties, Persian literary humanism witnessed the systematic triumph of its defining logos over any exclusive ethnos, when Iranian, Turkic, and Mongol dynasties all become Persianate in their cosmopolitan worldliness, by virtue of the primacy of the language they celebrated and enriched, and not by the divisive factor of ethnic origins that would have deeply alienated and separated them. All these empires were in dire need of imperial legitimation, which is precisely what Persian language and culture, and by extension and in effect Persian literary humanism, provided. If the ruling elite were to claim ethnic origin they would have never succeeded in projecting an aura of imperial legitimacy. Amir Alishir Nava'i was of Turko-Mongol descent. Turkish language was native and natural to him. He is in fact considered the founding father of Turkic literature—its Chaucer or Dante, as it were. But Persian was the language of high court and high culture Bildung—and he had mastered it, and commanded it, as his own, and it was as much his as anyone else’s.

Persian language and culture had by now, as it did consistently, a vast imperial heritage embedded in its texture and disposition, claim on a heritage and vision of its posterity, anteriority, emotive universe. The Timurid era was not just the concluding moment of the complete transmutation of the ethnos into logos of Persian literary humanism. It was also the inaugural moment of the internal dynamics of this humanism working itself towards a more advanced stage of its historical self-consciousness, predicated on both its domestic developments and its eventual encounter with the European colonial modernity—the dialectical results of which will unfold over the next half millennium. The Timurid Empire was the scene of the very last stage of the classical age of Persian literary imagination.

Table of Contents

Preface vii

Introduction: The Making of a Literary Humanism 1

1 The Dawn of an Iranian World in an Islamic Universe: The Rise of Persian Language and Literature (632-750) 42

2 The Persian Presence in the Early Islamic Empires: Resisting Arabic Literary Imperialism (750-1258) 70

3 The Prose and Poetry of the World: The Rise of Literary Humanism in the Seljuqid Empire (1038-1194) 98

4 The Triumph of the Word: The Perils and Promises of the Mongol Empire (1256-1353) 131

5 The Lure and Lyrics of a Literature: The Center and Periphery of the Timurid Empire (1370-1506) 165

6 The Contours of a Literary Cosmopolitanism: Treading over Multiple Empires (1501-1732) 191

7 The Dawn of New Empires: Literary Humanism in Search of Itself (1736-1924) 224

8 The Final Frontiers: New Persian Literary Humanism (1906 to the Present) 263

Conclusion: Literary Humanism as an Alternative Theory to Modernity 301

Notes 329

Acknowledgments 359

Index 361

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The World of Persian Literary Humanism 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 1 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A magnum opus on persian literature and its humanistic implications. A magnificient proof of what mankind (irrespective of religion and race) is able to achieve despite harsh dictatorships,devastating wars and horrific plunderers. An erudite accomplishment which makes the word "persian" sparkling again.