The Age of Beloveds: Inflections of Desire in Persian and Ottoman Literature
This course follows the trajectory of Islamicate love poetry from its emergence in medieval Persian letters to the court of the Ottoman Sultans. Our point of departure will be the emergence of a unique doctrine of love in Persian literature between the 11th and the 14th centuries, from the confluence of courtly, romantic and mystical ideas. Tracing the gradual imbrication of sacred and profane desire, we will study the advice on marital love in early Mirrors for Princes, the exaltation of heterosexual love in romances, the recasting of love in the context of a mystical erotology, and, finally, the enduring legacy of this discourse of love in ghazal poetry. We will then explore the theme of love, oscillating between heterosexual, homoerotic, and mystical in Ottoman lyric poetry by Sufi, Sultan, and woman poets, spreading over four hundred years until the 19th century. In looking at these texts, we will touch upon questions regarding the ideals and realities of love in Persian and Ottoman society, the protean nature and all-encompassing scope of longing in Perso-Ottoman letters, and the metaphysical implications of the hierarchical structure underlying the Persianate codes of love. Open to undergraduates and graduates. Taught in English.
Letter or Credit/No Credit