What compels humans to travel? How has travel facilitated the spread of ideas and cross-cultural exchange, and what imprint have journeys of the body and the mind left on literature? The theme of travel embodies the essential antitheses of life, such as separation and unity, beginning and end, birth and death, journey and destination, movement and inertia. Persian poetry’s rapid and far-reaching diffusion, from the time of its burgeoning in the Samanid era to the modern age, is a testament to the movement of individuals and groups. The Persian language’s status as a lingua franca has helped shape societies from modern-day Armenia to Thailand, and this vast geographical range creates an expansive landscape for the poetic imagination. How did poets in different Persianate regions travel, metaphorically and physically? What importance did fabled towns and landmarks take on in the poet’s mind, and how did this influence later generations’ perceptions of these places? (For example, how did Bukhara figure in the poetry of Indian poets such as Zeb un-Nissa? Or Indian cities in the poetry of Central Asian poets?) How did cities and towns feature in pre-modern conceptualisations of identity, and what role does mihan play in the worldview of a poet? Much has been written on the exchange of goods and technologies on the ‘silk roads;’ how did travel facilitate the circulation of new ideas?
In Persian poetic tradition, poetry was deemed a philosophy of life, rather than the peripheral genre it has historically been confined to in the English language. Each poem was a vignette of the author’s immediate lived experience, offering a unique take on universal concerns and emotions, capturing both the profound and prosaic. At times it is possible to plot the evolution of a poet’s worldview as it becomes coloured by life events, hinting at the inner journey undertaken by the individual. We can also observe fine strands of dialogue running across the ages, the ways in which poets from disparate contexts and centuries respond to and interact with one another.
This intensive four-week course is designed for students with an advanced level of Persian and will be conducted both in English and Persian. It will not only give you the opportunity to examine the work of Persian poets in intricate detail, but also provoke reflection on poetic modes of expression in contemplating the relationship between past and present voices. We will explore poetry from the 10th century to the modern era through the lens of travel, considering the various journeys depicted and embarked upon in verse and the broader motives that continue to inspire humans to travel. Over the duration of the course, you will be given assignments based on what we have read in class and you will work towards producing a final written response to the material covered.
Fees and deadlines
The participation fee is $500. Applicants who are strongly motivated to participate in the program but might not have financial means to pay the program fees should contact us at email@example.com as soon as they fill out the application form.
The deadline to apply is December 20, 2022. Tuition fees must be paid through an international bank transfer by January 1, 2023.
Mehdi Hesamizadeh is a composer and poet who approaches poetry as a living tradition in his teaching and explores the relationship between music and the spoken word. He is a native of Khorasan and deeply interested in the history of music of premodern Iran, as well as connections between musical traditions of different regions of the Near East and the Mediterranean.
Eliška Harris is a student of Persian poetry and a poet with a strong interest in the role poetry plays in the daily lives of Persian speakers in different communities. She holds a BA in Persian with Arabic from the University of Oxford. A curiosity to discover other cultures and traditions led her to the study of languages, and she is particularly interested in culturally-specific phrases that elude translation.
three times a week