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Goethe and Hafiz

Poetry and History in the "West-östlicher Divan</I>

Series:

Shafiq Shamel

This book offers a study of West-East cross-cultural and cross-contextual literacy by investigating Goethe’s relationship to the poetics of fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz in the West-östlicher Divan. Goethe’s collection of poetry, this book argues, constitutes a turning point in the history of German poetic subjectivity. The intellectual and historical significance of the Divan is examined by considering Goethe’s conception of history both in relation to Hegel’s philosophy of history as well as the linear notion of progress throughout the nineteenth century. Furthermore, the book demonstrates how the rise of aesthetics and the transition from a theological to a secular-humanistic conception of history and humanity in Europe positively influenced the reception of non-European literatures at the end of the eighteenth century. Hafiz, as argued here, owes his textual presence in the Divan to a cross-cultural and cross-temporal poetic vision that has its roots in the European Enlightenment. The book also elaborates on the role translation plays in the development of poetry and poetics as exemplified in the works of Sir William Jones (1746-1794) and Josef Freiherr von Hammer-Purgstall (1774-1856), translators of Oriental poetry into English and German.

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Chapter 2 The Object of Poetic Desire: Court Poetry and the Ghazal

Extract

I. The City of Shiraz The Moorish traveler Ibn Battuta, who had passed through Shiraz twice in his wanderings in Asia, describes the capital city of Fars, in Persia, as ‘a densely populated town, well built and admirably planned’.1 In his observations he continues: Each trade has its own bazaar. Its inhabitants are handsome and clean in their dress. In the whole East there is no city that approaches Damascus in beauty of bazaars, orchards, and rivers, and in the handsome figures of its inhabitants, but Shiraz. It is on a plain surrounded by orchards on all sides and intersected by rivers, one of which is the river known as Rukn Abad, whose water is very sweet, very cold in summer and warm in winter. The people of Shiraz are pious and upright, especially the women, who have a strange custom. Every Monday, Thursday, and Friday they meet in the principal mosque to listen to the preacher, one or two thousand of them, carrying fans with which they fan themselves on account of the great heat. I have never seen in any land so great an assembly of women… The sultan of Shiraz at the time of my visit was Abu Ishaq, one of the best of sultans, handsome and well-conducted, of generous character, humble, but powerful, and the ruler of a great kingdom. He had an army of more than fifty thousand men, Turks and Persians, but he does not trust the people of Shiraz. He will not take...

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