Jane Mikkelson, PhD candidate, SALC and NELC
Was there a historically identifiable “Indian style” of early modern Persian poetry, or is this a term that has been merely invented (as some have argued) by modern scholarship? If there was indeed an emic conception of an Indian style of Persian verse, in what did this style consist, and by whom was it defined? Finally, what is the value of thinking with this category today? This talk will attempt to address these questions in two ways. First, key examples drawn from the early modern Persian literary critical tradition will be presented, with particular attention to how certain figurations – including ambiguity (īhām), metaphor (esteʿāre), and what is imagined (khayāl) – were identified by early modern Persian-language critics as being constitutive of an Indian style. These first steps towards reconstructing the complex history of the very idea of an Indian style lead to the second angle of approach: allowing the poets to speak for themselves. To this end, the talk will examine three early modern Persian lyric poems on the theme of geography, homeland, and exile: a ghazal by Ṣāʾeb Tabrīzī (d.1676), and two response-poems (javābs) by Bīdel Dehlavī (d.1721) and Ḥazīn Lāhījī (d.1766), close reading of which will be informed by categories, values, and orientations recovered from the early modern critical tradition. Building on the rich range of specific meanings and values that analysis of these three poems brings to light, it will also be argued more generally that attending to the Persian lyric tradition must be regarded as vital – even central – to investigating matters of style, geography, and belonging in the early modern Persianate world.