SOAS University of London

Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Persian Poetry in Translation

Module Code:
Module Not Running 2022/23
This module introduces students to some of the major trends and poets in the thousand-year history of post-Islamic Persian poetry, from the court of the Samanids in the early tenth century to the present time. Through the medium of translated texts, students learn about the conventions, topoi and motifs of Persian poetry, and gain an in-depth understanding of the main features of Persian poetry and the impact of key poets on Islamic culture and religion. The poets covered in the earlier part of this period are Rudaki, Ferdowsi, Umar Khayyam, Nezami, 'Attar, Mowlavi (Rum), Sa'di, Hafez and Jami. Reference will be made poets of the Indian style and the Neo-Classical movement of the 18th and 19th centuries. The emergence of the modernist movement is dealt with next. Study of the period of the Constitutional Revolutionary movement (1906-11) leads on to such modern poets as Nima Yushij, Ahmad Shamlou, Forough Farrokhzad, Sohrab Sepehri and others. The module also covers the poetry of the Iranian diaspora in Europe and the United States.


None, but some familiarity with, and enthusiasm for, reading poetry in general are desirable. N.B. This module is not available to students enrolled on BA Persian and BA Persian and another subject.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

This module aims to introduce the student to some of the major trends and poets in the thousand year history of post Islamic, Persian poetry. 

By the end of the module, through the available translated texts, students will have gained an in- depth understanding of the main features of Persian poetry and the impact of key Persian poets on Islamic culture and religion. At the end of the module the student will be able to write critically about the depth and breadth of Persian poetic genres and will have learnt about conventions, topoi and motifs in Persian poetry.


Two hours of lectures per week over 22 weeks.

Method of assessment

Two essays of 2000 words, to be submitted at the end of Week 3 of Term 2 and the end of Week 2 of Term 3 (15% each), and one three-hour written examination in May/June (70%).

Suggested reading

  • A.J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London 1958.
  • A.J. Arberry, Persian Poems, Everyman's Library, 1954 (and reprints). A selection of translations.
  • A.J. Arberry, Fitzerald’s Salaman and Absal: A Study (CUP 1956)
  • A.J. Arberry, Shiraz: Persian City of Saints and Poets
  • A.J. Arberry, Of Poetry and Piety
  • Abbas Aryanpur, Persian folk-songs / rendered into English verse by Abbas Aryanpur (Kashani) and Simin Behbahani ; edited and translated from the Persian by Farzaneh Milani and Kaveh Safa ; with introductory essays by the poet and an afterword by Kaveh Safeh, Syracuse University Press, 1999
  • Aminrazavi, Mehdi, The Wine of Wisdom: The Life, Poetry and Philosophy of Omar Khayyam (Oxford, Oneworld 2005)
  • Articles in Ehsan Yarshater (ed.), Persian Literature, [New York] 1987.
  • C.A. Storey, Persian Literature: A Bio-bibliographical Survey, vol. IV, parts i and ii, by. F. de Blois, London 1992-4. This goes up to AD1225 so far.
  • Cambridge History of Iran for relevant chapters
  • Chelkowski, Hamid Dabashi.Davis D. 1984, Farid-ud-Din Attar, The Conference of the Birds, London, Penguin
  • Chittick, W.C., The Sufi Path of Love: The Spiritual Teachings of Rumi (Albany 1983)
  • Dashti, Ali, In Search of Omar Khayyam, trans. L.P. Elwell-Sutton
  • Davis Richard, Borrowed Ware: Medieval Persian Epigrams (London, Anvil Press 1996)
  • De Bruijn J.T.P., Persian Sufi Poetry: An Introduction to the Mystical Use of Classical Persian Poems (Curzon 1997)
  • E.G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, 1902-24 (and reprints), Vols II, III.
  • Encyclopaedia Iranica: Articles on individual poets and topics
  • Encyclopaedia of Islam: Articles on individual poets and topics. Use the second edition where possible.
  • Farzaneh Milani, Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women Writers, London & New York 1992
  • Ghanoonparvar, M.R. 2001, Translating the Garden, University of Texas Press
  • M.R. Ghanunparvar, Prophets of Doom... , New York and London 1984.
  • Ghomi H, The fragrance of the rose : the transmission of religion, culture, and tradition through the translation of Persian poetry, 1993
  • History of Persian Literature from the Beginning of the Islamic Period to the Present Day, (Handbuch der Orientalistik, Abteilung 1,
  • Band 4, Abschnitt 2, Lieferung 2) ed. B. Spuler (Leiden 1981), includes George Morison, 'Persian Literature (Belles-Lettres) from the
  • Earliest Times to the time of J®m¬,' and Julian Baldick, 'Persian —‚f¬ Poetry up to the Fifteenth Century.'
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht 1968.
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht, 1968.
  • Julie Meisam¬, Medieval Persian Court Poetry, Princeton 1987.
  • Karimi-Hakkak, Ahmad, An Anthology of Modern Persian Poetry, Westview Press, 1978
  • Lefevere, André. 1992. Translating Literature: Practice and Theory in a Comparative Literature
  • Limbert John, Shiraz in the Age of Hafez (University of Washington Press 2004)
  • Meskoub Sh. Iranian Nationality and Persian Language, trans. Michael Hillmann (Washington 1992)
  • Meisami, Julie Scott (1995) The Haft Paykar: A Medieval Persian Romance, Oxford OUP The World’s Classics
  • Rypka's chapter on the 19th century (pp. 320-351) and Vera Kubickova's contribution 'Persian Literature of the 20th Century' (pp. 355-418).
  • Saberi, Reza, A Thousand Years of Persian Rubaiyat (An Anthlogy of Quatrains from the tenth t the twentieth century along with the original Persian), Bethesda: IBEX Publisher, 2000
  • Schimmel, Annemarie, I am Wind, You are Fire: The Life and Works of Rumi (Boston 1992)
  • Schimmel, Annemarie, The Triumphal Sun: A Study of the Works of Jalal ud-Din Rumi (London 1978)
  • Schimmel, Annemarie, A Two-Coloured Brocade: The Imagery of Persian Poetry (N. Carolina 1992)
  • Seyyed Ghorab, A.A., Layli and Majnun: Love, Madness and Mystic Longing in Nezami’s Epic Romance (Leiden: Brill 2003)
  • Talattof K. and Clinton, J,(eds.) The Poetry of Nizami Ganjavi: Knowledge, Love, and Rhetoric (New York: Palgrave 2000)
  • Toury, Gideon (ed.) 1987, Translation Across Cultures, New Delhi: Bahri
  • Wilson P.L. & Pourjavadi N., The Drunken Universe: An Anthology of Persian Sufi Poetry (Phanes Press 1987)
  • Milani, Farzaneh, "Conflicts Between Traditional Roles and Poetry in the Work of Forugh Farrokhzad," Women and the Family in Iran (ed., Asghar Fathi), Leiden: E. J. Brille, 1985.
  • Moayyad, Heshmat and A. Margaret Arent Madelung, A Nightingale's Lament, Mazda Publishers, 1985.
  • Heshmat Moayyad, ed. Once a dewdrop : essays on the poetry of Parvin E'tesami, Costa Mesa : Mazda, 1994
  • Nicholson, Reynold A. The Mystics of Islam: An Introduction to Sufism, Schocken Books, 1975.
  • Nott, C. S. The Conference of the Birds, Shambala (Berkeley), 1971.
  • Rypka, Jan, et al., History of Iranian Literature, Karl Jahn (ed.), Dordrecht, Holland: D. Reidel, 1968.
  • Soroudi, Sorour, "Poet and Revolution," Iranian Studies, Vol. XII, Nos. 1-4, 1979.
  • Windfuhr, Gernot L. and John R. Workman, "Literature in Translation-Iranian into English," Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, vol. 7, No. 1, 1973.
  • Bride of acacias : selected poems of Forugh Farrokhzad / translated by Jascha Kessler with Amin Banani ; introduction by Amin
  • Banani ; afterword by Farzaneh Milani Delmar : Caravan Books, 1982
  • Tavallud'i digar. English. Another birth : selected poems of Forugh Farrokhzad / translated by Hasan Javadi and Susan Sallée Albany Press, 1981
  • Hillmann, M. C., (Michael Craig) A lonely woman: Forugh Farrokhzad and her poetry Three Continents Press and Mage Publishers, 1987
  • Munibur Rahman, Post-revolution Persian Verse, Aligarh 1955
  • Michael Loraine, 'A memoir on the life and poetical works of Maliku 'l-Shu‘arâ Bahâr', International Journal of Middle East Studies, 3 (1972), pp. 140-68.
  • Mohammad Ishaque, Four Eminent Persian Poetesses, Calcutta 1950.
  • Mansour Shaki, 'Modern Persian Poetry', in Yádnáme-ye Jan Rypka, Prague 1967.
  • Machalsky, F. La littérature de l'Iran contemporain vol. III.


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