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Mahroo Moosavi (Ouseley Short-Term Fellow): 'The Hyper-Text Inshā: Re-examining Early Modern Persian Epistolographic Compilations'

In a parallel reading of several Persian epistolographic majmū‘a [compilation] manuscripts – produced during the Safavid period (1501-1722) in Iran and the broader Persianate world - that are currently housed at different archives in the UK, and the poetry of the time called Ṭarz-i Tāze [the Fresh Style], this paper argues that the extreme abstruseness, verbosity, and hyperbolic characteristics of text in the prose literature of the Safavids can be read in alternate ways if contextualised in the emerging rhetorical psychology of early modern Iranian urbanity.

The emerging and unusual complexity of text during the Safavid period is a phenomenon that occurs simultaneously across different media and multiple forms of textuality. This simultaneous shift towards extreme complexity and abstruseness of text, defines and signals a fundamentally distinctive character for the notion of early modern Persian textuality. In this fresh rhetorical system, fashioned and performed by the community of adīb(s) [the literati], the agency of text shifts from a simple ‘signifier’ to a ‘self-referent signifier’ while there is a transformation of the concept of the author’s subjectivity and personhood. This shift in the characterisation and systematisation of text marks a crucial point in time in the literary history of Iran – a point that will possibly be missed from the lens of single disciplinarity. This study foremost emphasises on the necessity of examining different forms of literary production such as prose and poetry in parallel to and in resonance with each other.

The Work in Progress seminar explores the variety of subjects studied and researched at the Warburg Institute. Papers are given by invited international scholars, research fellows studying at the Institute, and third-year PhD students.


Image: ‘Ināyatullāh Kanbū’s Gulshan-i ‘Ināyat, 1072 AH/1662 AD (copied in 1099 AH/ 1688 AD), Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Whinfield 32. folio. 73b-74a.