Figurative and Figural Allusions in the Medieval Literature of Persian Sufism


Thursday, February 16, 2012, 5:30pm to 7:00pm


Dana Palmer House, 12-16 Quincy Street, Cambridge, MA

The Department of Comparative Literature cordially presents

Chad Kia
Harvard University

On the intersection of the visual language of pictorial representation and the verbal imagery of poetic description--particularly in the allegorical form--the paper will focus on the literary and visual cultures of mysticism in the eastern Islamic world of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. The phenomenal rise in the popularity of mysticism in the post-Mongolian-invasion Islamic world had by the fifteenth century resulted in the penetration of Sufi discourse into the language of literary works, not least those commissioned for illustration. What followed--the main topic of this presentation--is the advent of allegorical painting based on the contemporary literary discourse of Islamic mysticism and an intertextual system of signification that united literary discourse and esoteric religious practice over a period of centuries.
Chad Kia is a Lecturer in Persian Literature and Culture at the Dept. of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations. He received his PhD in Middle Eastern Languages and Comparative Literature from Columbia University in 2009 and was, for two years, a Visiting Assistant Professor at the Department of Comparative Literature at Brown University. In 2008, he was a Smithsonian fellow at the Freer-Sackler Galleries of Asian Art in Washington, D.C. His research concentrates on the relationship of medieval Persian poetry to figurative manuscript paintings from the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. His previous article on the nexus of word and image in Persian illustrated manuscripts was published in Muqarnas in 2007. His forthcoming “Sufi Orthopraxis: Visual Language and Verbal Imagery in Medieval Afghanistan” will appear in Word & Image in June 2012.

Organized by Louise Nilsson and Laetitia Nanquette, Visiting Scholars, Department of Comparative Literature, Harvard University

Contact: Laetitia Nanquette