Teaching Persian Ghazals: The Merits and Challenges

A content-based approach to the teaching of Persian literature may be structured around questions that are also learning goals for the student. Such questions revolve around the Persian literary and cultural history, and the role of literature in Persian-speaking societies. The subject is too broad but in this paper, I will concentrate my attention on teaching the genre of ghazal by answering basic questions such as, what are the rudimentary poetic elements the student should master before analyzing a poem? Why are themes and motifs so important to understand the unity of a ghazal? What are the effects of figures of speech such as metaphors, similes and hyperbole to increase the impact of the poet’s message? What does polyphony mean and why did Persian poets deploy this device to communicate their message? Do Persian ghazals have a mystic layer? What are the pitfalls for students in reading and interpreting a ghazal? Such questions are essential for a deep appreciation of this dominant poetic form.