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Conference in London: The Philosophical Poetry Of Nasir Khusraw

For the past thousand years, Nasir Khusraw has ranked as a leading poet and intellectual in the Persian-speaking world. His verses appear in every major anthology of Persian poetry compiled since his death in 1077 CE, and, a century ago, were required material for an MA examination in India. Today, both his prose and his poetry are studied by schoolchildren in Iran and Tajikistan. Still, Nasir Khusraw's impact in Persian-speaking societies goes much deeper, often in surprisingly various ways. For example, his name today has been used as the title to a cultural center in Kabul, a neighbourhood in Tehran, and funeral rites in Tajikistan. The pervasiveness of his linguistic artistry appears in full evidence in Dehkhoda's three-volume compendium of memorable maxims and sayings of the Persian language (Amthal wa Hikam), where citations from Nasir Khusraw outnumber those for numerous more popular poets, including Hafez, Nizami and Attar. In addition, legends about his piety and his supernatural powers abound, with some people still hailing him as a saint, others as a heretic, while others question the aesthetic, emotional or spiritual value of a poetry which extols the virtue of intellect ('aql) rather than love ('ishq).



While recognised as an important poet, Nasir Khusraw also leaves a considerable oeuvre of prose philosophical works which bears witness to his abilities as an advocate and missionary for the Ismaili branch of Shi'ism. Six of these texts have been edited so far, a few of them translated into Western languages, and others remain in manuscript form. A number of articles, dissertations, and other studies have been published over the past century examining portions of this philosophical output.


However, no one has yet undertaken an in-depth look at the philosophical content of his poetry (the need for which has been voiced in almost every academic presentation of his poetry) or at the poetic techniques Nasir Khusraw employs to achieve his admitted success in conveying imagery and emotion. This conference aims to examine the philosophy and technique manifest in Nasir Khusraw's poetry.


Some conference papers will place Nasir Khusraw in historic context, revealing how he continues the classic heritage of earlier Persian and Arabic poetic forms and norms, and how later centuries reacted to his poems. Other papers will analyze key philosophical terms and concepts, such as intellect, knowledge, speech (Word), and soul ('aql, 'ilm, kalima, jan), and compare his consistency in using these terms in his prose philosophical texts. A number of papers will address the poetic tools, such as metaphor, rhyme, rhythm, and repetition, Nasir Khusraw employs to achieve his poetic power.


The international roster of scholars presenting papers at this conference will not only illuminate various aspects of Nasir Khusraw's poetics and philosophy, it will also show several academic traditions, including the Soviet, Iranian, Pakistani, European and American. Such an international assembly provides the valuable opportunity to learn from different approaches to the same subject. Discussions among these scholars, all specialists in Persian literature and Islamic thought, are expected to be quite engaging and rich.


Venue: Brunei Gallery Auditorium, SOAS, Thornhaugh St., Russell Square, London.


Dates: 17-18 September 2005.


Organised by: The Iran Heritage Foundation and the Institute of Ismaili Studies in association with the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.


Convened by: Alice Hunsberger in collaboration with Doris Behrens Abouseif.


Conference committee: Mehdi Aminrazavi, Farhad Daftary, Farhad Hakimzadeh, Leonard Lewisohn.


Web Site:


Registration fee: 50 GBP on or before 10 September, 60 GBP after 10 September (Students: 25 GBP on or before 10 September, 30 GBP after 10 September; student rate subject to proof of status). The registration fee is inclusive of lunch on both conference days and film screening in the evening of the first conference day. The registration fee is non refundable.


Enquiries: The Iran Heritage Foundation, 5 Stanhope Gate, London W1K 1AH. 44 20 7493 4766 (tel), 44 20 7499 9293 (fax),


... Payvand News - 8/8/05 ... --

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