SOAS University of London

Centre for Iranian Studies

'Attâr's Canticle of the Birds: a Thirteenth-Century Persian Sufi Masterpiece of Poetry and Art

Canticle of the Birds
Michael Barry, Princeton University

Date: 20 February 2014Time: 7:00 PM

Finishes: 20 February 2014Time: 9:00 PM

Venue: Russell Square: College Buildings Room: DLT (G2)

Type of Event: Lecture

Composed at the turn of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the 'Canticle of the Birds' or Manteq-ot-Teyr is universally regarded not only as the most perfect crystallization of Sufi thought in Persian verse - indeed Rûmî acknowledged its poet `Attâr (ca. 1145-1221) as his own spiritual master - but as one of the greatest masterpieces of all mystical literature. Through exquisite manuscript illuminations of the thirteenth to seventeenth centuries analyzed here in depth, this slide-show presents the poem's allegory of all the world's souls, configured as so many birds in flight towards the Sunbird or Sîmorgh rising in the East as a glorious symbol of the Divine - discussing such brilliant visual significance in light of archetypal religious imagery: notably the visionary experience of `Attâr's immediate contemporary, and true spiritual counterpart, Saint Francis of Assisi.

`Attâr's poem has been newly made available for international audiences by the Éditions Diane de Selliers (Paris) in both French and English versions - respectively translated by Leili Anvar and Dick Davis - in a sumptuous edition with 210 manuscript illuminations commented by Michael Barry. This exceptional publication has been awarded both France's Montherlant Prize for writing on art by the Académie des Beaux-Arts (part of the Académie Française) in 2013, and Iran's Prize for Book of the Year on Persian Civilization in 2014.

Chair: Jane Lewisohn, SOAS

Organiser: Centre for Iranian Studies

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