Sunil Sharma: The Ghazal in the Twilight of Indo-Persian Literary Culture

Posted on August 28th, 2012 in Events

November 29, 12:15 PM, Encina Hall West, Room 208 (616 Serra Street)

Workshop Series: “Persian Literature on the Cusp of Modernity”

Sunil Sharma (Boston University), “The Ghazal in the Twilight of Indo-Persian Literary Culture”*

Abstract: The decline of Indo-Persian literary culture is thought to have been precipitated by the introduction of English as the official language in British India in 1835. Ghalib Dihlavi (d. 1869) is considered to have been the last Persian poet of India writing in a classical style whose writings evince a great deal of nostalgia for the master poets of a lost, unified Persianate world. Persian was increasingly treated as a classical language, along with Arabic and Sanskrit, and Urdu and other vernacular occupied the gap left by it in the public sphere. In the early twentieth century, there was a sudden revival of Persian poetry at the hands of two scholar-poets, Shibli Nu’mani (d. 1914) and Iqbal Lahori (d. 1938), who both composed verse in the language, using a conventional genre in distinctly new ways. The composition of these poems formed part of each poet’s separate agenda in the larger project of literary modernity and Muslim nationalism in India, reflecting different views of the Persianate past. This paper will study the contexts in which these poets produced several ghazal cycles with respect to the use of imagery and well-known refrains of classical poems. A close reading of some of the poems will attempt to answer the fundamental questions of who the audience was for these poems in the absence of a vibrant Indo-Persian literary community and whether they had an impact in the larger Persophone world.

Sunil Sharma is Associate Professor of Persianate and Comparative Literature at Boston University. He received his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. He specializes on classical Persian and Urdu literatures. Among his publications are  “The Land of Darkness: Images of India in the Works of Some Safavid Poets” (Studies on Persianate Societies, 2003), “The City of Beauties in the Indo-Persian Poetic Landscape” (Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East, 2004), Amir Khusraw: Poet of Sultans and Sufis (2005), Persian Poetry at the Indian Frontier: Mas‘ûd Sa‘d Salmân of Lahore (2008), “Forbidden Love, Persianate Style: Re-reading Tales of Iranian Poets and Mughal Patrons” (Iranian Studies, 2009), Atiya’s Journeys: A Muslim Woman from Colonial Bombay to Edwardian Britain (2010), On the Wonders of Land and Sea: Persianate Travel Writing (2013). He is also on the editorial board of Iranian Studies Series, Murty Classical Library of India, Studies in Persian Cultural History, and Journal of Persianate Studies.

*Papers are available to Stanford affiliates upon request.

[Co-sponsored by the Moghadam Program in Iranian Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature]


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