[Monday Talks] Domenico Ingenito, Sensual Sufi Bodies: Desiring the Visible and the Invisible in Medieval Persian Poetry

11/04/2022 18:00

In-depth approaches to the study of 13th-century Persian poetry raise questions that touch upon the problem of the relationship between sensuality and visionary experiences in the context of medieval Sufi thought, theology, and Islamic philosophy: does the beloved that Persian Sufi poet celebrate represent an embodiment of the divine? If this is the case, is it the divine essence or the image of God that appears in the mirror-like countenance of the lyric object of desire? Is it a faithful representation of some kind of supernal form, or an analogue that metaphorically stands for the divine? How does the human object of desire act as a locus of the divine presence? Is his face a form of immanent attestation to transcendental perfection? And, furthermore, how are the senses of the beholder involved in the contemplation of this manifestation and how do they manage the lustful thoughts that it might elicit?

Drawing upon his recent monograph, Beholding Beauty: Sa'di of Shiraz and the Aesthetics of Desire in Medieval Persian Poetry, Domenico Ingenito will address these key questions from the perspective of the lyric output of Sufi poets such as Sa'di Shirazi, Humam Tabrizi, Rumi, and Sayf Farghani, who flourished in medieval Fars, Azerbaijan, and Anatolia during the Saljuk and Ilkhanid period. These poets' meditations on the role of the body in the quest for physical and metaphysical forms of sensuality will be read against the ambient availability of contemporaneous Sufi practices, scientific paradigms, and philosophical insights on the power of visionary experiences, music, and imagination.

Domenico Ingenito is an Associate Professor of Persian Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles, and Director of the Program on Central Asia. His research interests center on medieval Persian poetry, the visual culture of Iran and Central Asia, gender and translations studies, and manuscript culture. His most recent articles are: "Hafez's 'Shirāzi Turk': A Geopoetical Approach (Iranian Studies)" and "'A Marvelous Painting': The Erotic Dimension of Saʿdi's Praise Poetry" (Journal of Persianate Studies). His most recent book is Beholding Beauty: Saʿdi of Shiraz and the Aesthetics of Desire in Medieval Persian Poetry (Brill, 2020). His Italian translation of Forugh Farrokhzad's collected poems, along with all original texts, will be published in 2022 by Bompiani. He is currently working on an English translation of a selection of Sa'di's poems (University of California Press) and a monograph on kingship, poetic creativity, and homoeroticism in the context of Ghaznavid praise poetry.

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