Language Three Ways in the ʿOshshāqnāmeh of Fakhr al-Din ʿErāqī

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University of California, Davis
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Jocelyn Sharlet teaches courses on the literatures of the Middle East and the Islamic World in translation and reading courses in Arabic and Persian, and does research on pre-modern Arabic and Persian literature.

Among the works attributed to the thirteenth-century Persian mystical poet Fakhr al-Dīn ʿErāqī, who was born near Hamadān and travelled widely in the Persian-speaking world, is the ʿOshshāqnāmeh or Risāleh-yi deh faṣl, a relatively short masnavī that explores mystical experience. Three interrelated features of this text offer perspectives on the use of language to investigate mystical experience, as a way of thinking about subjectivity and the relationships among the speaker, God, the commmunity of mystics, and society. First, the text is divided into masnavī, including stories, and ghazal. In addition, it is divided into introductory sections and short chapters on topics related to mystical experience. Second, verbal communication is “thematized” when the text attributes speech to personae. Speech is also made salient when the text explicitly refers to speech in a more general way, or when Arabic appears within the Persian text. Third, this text incorporates first-, second-, and third person point of view. Shifting combinations of point of view are related to other features of syntax in the texture of this poem. This presentation will analyze these three interrelated features of the focus on language as a dimension of mystical experience. It will situate the analysis of this text in the context of how these three features of language function in other genres of poetry and prose by Fakhr al-Dīn ʿErāqī. It will relate this analysis to pre-modern Persian sources that discuss ʿErāqī such as Jāmī and Mīr Khwānd, and to modern research, including work by Eve Pierunek and Muhammad Akhtar Cimah on ʿErāqī, Mahdi Tourage and Fatemeh Keshavarz on Rūmī, Badīʿ al-Zamān Furūzānfar, Helmut Ritter, and Paul Losensky on ʿAṭṭār, A.L.F.A. Beelaert on Khāqānī, and J. T. P. De Bruijn on Sanāʾī, as well as work on Ibn ʿArabī. In addition, the analysis will make use of relevant theoretical perspectives, including work by Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Judith Butler, and Teresa de Lauretis.

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Arabic and Persian literature
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