Classical Persian Poetry: Texts and Traditions (PG)

Key information

Start date
End date
Term 1
Module code
FHEQ Level

Module overview


Persian language to intermediate level will be required.  Students interested in this module will have their language level checked before entry.

Objectives and learning outcomes of the module

At the end of the course, a student should be able to demonstrate…

  1. Familiarity with  and critical understanding of a number of texts and genres of Classical Persian Poetic literature from 10th to 15th centuries
  2. Range of skills in reading and translating Persian literary texts
  3. Development of critical skills in discussing and writing about the literary language, style and social dimensions of Classical Persian poetry and its role in the revival of the Persian cultural heritage.
  4. An advanced understanding of the role of classical Persian poetry in the development of Persianate mystical writing and its contribution to other literary cultures of the Near & Middle East, South and Central Asia.
  5. Ability to demonstrate familiarity with secondary literature focused on the study of classical Persian poetry.


This course is taught over 11 weeks with 3 hours classroom contact per week.

Scope and syllabus

This module is primarily an advanced language use course (MA In Theory and Practice of Translation [Asia & Africa]), however, the study of the literary history of Iran and the development of Persian poetry complements the study of Persian culture and the cultural characteristics of the wider region of Near & Middle East and Asia (MA in Cultural Studies). Comprehensive study of the different schools of poetry and the major genres related to the mediaeval period, from its origins to c.1500, accompanied by in-depth study and analysis of a selection of poetic texts (epics, odes, lyrics, panegyric and quatrains) by well-known poets, representing the major genres of heroic, romantic, didactic, spiritual & mystical poetry, will fit into comparative literary studies (MA Comparative Literature - Africa/Asia; MA Islamic Societies and Cultures).  All the above makes the MA Near & Middle Eastern Studies the natural, parental home for the course.

Set texts will be read, translated and discussed in the PG only class.  Preparation of the texts for class, and background reading, will be required.  The extra hour with the PG students will provide the opportunity to look in-depth at genres and much more extensive poetic selections that are either just nominally mentioned in the BA class or not studied at all.  The PG students are also required to consider a wider range of secondary literature focused on the study of Persian poetry and demonstrate their critical analysis of these and the primary sources in their classroom activities and submitted coursework.

Overall the course will offer:

  • A rounded knowledge and critical understanding of the major genres and themes of classical Persian poetry
  • Familiarity with the principal critical works on the subject, and familiarity with the structural & textual analysis of the poems of 10th-16th Centuries
  • Knowledge of different literary schools instrumental in the developments of Persian literary heritage
  • An understanding of literary language, structures and imagery as embodied in selected texts by leading poets
  • The ability to relate literary structures, themes and imagery  to political and cultural changes of the period under study
  • Acquisition of the critical language to articulate the ways in which language, literature and thought are interrelated

Method of assessment

  • Assignment 1 - Translation and Critical Reading (600 words) to be submitted in Term 1 (20%)
  • Assignment 2 - One essay (1,800 words) to be submitted before start of Term 2 (60%)
  • PowerPoint oral presentation on a specific topic (15 minutes) by agreement in Term 2 (20%)
  • The exact assessment deadline dates are published on the relevant module Moodle/BLE page

Suggested reading

General Works of Reference

  • Thackston, W. M., (Wheeler McIntosh,) A millennium of classical Persian poetry. a guide to the reading and understanding of Persian poetry from the tenth to the twentieth century
  • C. E. Bosworth, The Islamic Dynasties, A Chronological and Genealogical Handbook, 1980
  • E.G. Browne, A Literary History of Persia, London 1902-24 (and reprints - by C.U.P.), Vols II, III.
    vol. i 1902, ii 1906, iii 1920, iv 1924.
  • Jan Rypka, History of Iranian Literature, Dordrecht, 1968.
  • A.J. Arberry, Classical Persian Literature, London 1958.
  • A.J. Arberry, Persian Poems, Everyman's Library, 1954 (and reprints).  A selection of translations.
  • Julie Meisami,  Medieval Persian Court Poetry, Princeton 1987.
  • 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 Morrison, 'Persian Literature (Belles-Lettres) from the Earliest Times to the time of Jami,' and Julian Baldick, ‘Persian Sufi Poetry up to the Fifteenth Century.’
  • 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.
  • Articles in Ehsan Yarshater (ed.), Persian Literature, [New York] 1987.
  • Encyclopaedia of Islam.  Articles on individual poets and topics, second edition where possible
  • Encyclopaedia Iranica     Articles on individual poets and topics.  More articles can be found on the on-line site;
  • Cambridge History of Iran for relative chapters Rudaki


Ms Narguess Farzad


Important notice regarding changes to programmes and modules