Sharḥ: Two Kinds of Sociality and Two Ways of Reading in Three Mughal Commentaries on Sa‘di’s Gulistān


Friday, April 13, 2018, 4:00pm to 6:00pm


CMES, Rm 102, 38 Kirkland St, Cambridge, MA 02138

The CMES Director's Series and the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations present

Prashant KeshavmurthyMughal Gulistan manuscript page
Associate Professor of Persian-Iranian Studies, McGill University

Sa'di's prosimetrum, the Rose Garden, completed in 1258 in Shiraz, was the paradigmatic formulation in Persianate societies from the Balkans to Bengal of a worldly ethics of cautious moderation in all dealings and the virtuous circulation of words, gifts and deeds. Central to character formation, the Rose Garden acquired numerous commentaries over the centuries. This talk will focus on three such commentaries from Mughal North India of the 18th-19th centuries. Through close readings of representative passages it will distinguish between two ways of reading Sa'di's text that corresponded to two kinds of sociality respectively: a philological method that corresponded to a secular and egalitarian model of friendship; and an allegorical method that authorised itself by the Sufi hierarchical model of saintly friendship with God or wilāya.

Prashant Keshavmurthy received his BA (1996) in English from St. Stephens College, Delhi, his MA in English (1998) from Jawaharlal Nehru University, Delhi, his MPhil (2000) in English from Faculty of Arts, Delhi University and his PhD (2009) in Comparative Literature from the Institute for Comparative Literature and Society and Middle Eastern and Asian Languages and Cultures in Columbia University, New York, under the supervision of Prof. Frances Pritchett. He then took up an Assistant Professorship (2009) in Iranian-Persian Studies in the Institute of Islamic Studies in McGill. He has been Assistant Professor since 2009 except for the year 2011-2012 which he spent in a Post-Doctoral Program called Zukunftsphilologie at the Forum Transregionale Studien in Berlin. He was appointed Associate Professor in 2016.

His research interests focus on literary canon formation and conceptions of authorship in pre-colonial Persian and Urdu literary traditions; commentarial practices in pre-19th century Persian literary cultures; translation theory, especially as it relates to inter-semiotic translations between Islamic and Indic traditions; and ethical and political thought in late Mughal India. He is currently working on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) funded project on ideas of the ethical and political in 17th and 18th century Mughal commentaries on Sa‘di's Gulistān (Rose Garden, 1258).

Sponsors: The Aga Khan Fund for Iranian Studies of the Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, CMES Director's Series
Contact: Liz Flanagan