nl en

Persian Literature outside Iran: A Literary History


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Persian Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) with sufficient knowledge of Persian (three year of education at BA-level; level B2 European Common Framework). Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os or Dr. G.R. van den Berg, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student admitted to one of the above-mentioned master programmes or if you are not confident regarding your level of Persian.


The Iranian cultural area is much larger than the area covered by the modern states of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Iranian languages are spoken in an area stretching from China to Turkey and from the Caucasus to Oman. Persian is the most widespread Iranian language and has been until quite recently a lingua franca and a literary language in large parts of Central Asia and India. As the language of refined culture, Persian has deeply influenced the literary output of the Ottoman and the Moghul empires, and Persian literature in turn has been formed and enriched by the influence of Indian, Arabic and Greek literary heritage. The course opens with a discussion of the rise of New Persian in Central Asia. Furthermore, at least two of the following topics will be covered: patronage of Persian letters at the court of the Samanids and their successors; Persian renditions of the Indian fable of Kalila and Dimna; Imagination and Geography: Alexander the Great in Persian literature; Indo-Persian poetry; Tajik and Judeo-Tajik literature. We will focus specifically on the lands east and north of present-day Iran, and on men of letters originating from or working in cities such as Ghazna, Lahore, Delhi, Ganja, Bukhara and Kokand from the 11th century to the beginning of the 20th century.

Course objectives

To gain insight in the nature, context and function of Persian writing and art produced in Central Asia, India, and present-day Afghanistan, in connection to Persian literary and cultural history.


See (provisional) timetables.

Mode of instruction

Tutorial. Attendance is required.

Assessment method

Midterm paper of 1000 words on the basis of fixed items of the reading list (20%); term paper of 3000 words related to one of the topics treated in this course (60%); active participation in class and preparation of course work (20%)


Blackboard is used

Reading list

This reading list only contains a few selected items. A full reading list, as well as primary source material in Persian or Tajik will be provided during the course.

  • Muzaffar Alam, F. Nalini Delvoye, Marc Gaborieau (eds), The Making of Indo-Persian Culture, New Delhi: Manohar 2000.

  • Michele Bernardini, ‘Variables in the Persophonie System’, in: Iran und iranisch geprägte Kulturen, ed. Markus Ritter, Ralph Kauz & Birgit Hoffmann, Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag 2008, pp. 167-173.

  • François de Blois, ‘Pre-Islamic Iranian and Indian Influences on Persian Literature’, in General Introduction to Persian Literature, ed. J.T.P. de Bruijn, London: I.B. Tauris 2009, pp. 333-344 (chapter 11).

  • Margaret Bridges and J.Ch. Bürgel (eds.), The Problematics of Power, Eastern and Western Representations of Alexander the Great, Bern: Peter Lang 1996.

  • Bert Fragner, Die “Persophonie”: Regionalität, Identität und Sprachkontakt in der Geschichte Asiens, Berlin: ANOR 1999.

  • Stephen F. Dale, The Garden of the Eight Paradises: Babur and the Culture of Empire in Central Asia, Afghanistan and India (1483-1530), Leiden: Brill 2004.

  • Alyssa Gabbay, Islamic tolerance: Amir Khusraw and pluralism, London: Routledge 2010.

  • Alice Hunsberger, Nasir Khusraw.The Ruby of Badakhshan, London / New York: I.B. Tauris and The Institute of Ismaili Studies 2000.

  • Robert Irwin, ‘The Arabic Beast Fable’, Journal of the Wartburg and Courtauld Institutes, Volume 55 (1992), pp. 36-50

  • Gilbert Lazard, ‘The Rise of the New Persian Language’ in: Cambridge History of Iran, vol. IV, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1975, pp. 595-632.

  • Paul Losensky, Welcoming Fighani: imitation and poetic individuality in the Safavid-Mughal “ghazal”, Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda 1998.

  • John Perry, ‘The Origin and Development of Literary Persian’, in: General Introduction to Persian Literature, ed. J.T.P. de Bruijn, London: I.B. Tauris 2009, pp. 43-70 (chapter 2).

  • John Perry, A Tajik Persian Reference Grammar, Leiden: Brill 2005.

  • Christine van Ruymbeke, “Kashifi’s Forgotten Masterpiece: Why Rediscover the Anvar-i Suhayli? Iranian Studies, volume 36, no. 4, December 2003, pp. 571-588.

  • Lutz Rzehak, Vom Persischen zum Tadschikischen, Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag 2001.

  • Lutz Rzehak, ‘The Linguistic Challenge: Bukharan Jews and Soviet Language Policy’, in: Bukharan Jews in the 20th Century, Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag 2008, pp. 37-55.

  • Sunil Sharma, Persian poetry at the Indian frontier : Mas’ud Sa’d Salman of Lahore, Delhi: Permanent Black 2000.

  • Maria Szuppe, Entre Timourides, Uzbeks et Safavides: questions d’histoire politique et sociale de Hérat dans la première moitié du XVIe siècle, Paris: Association pour l’avancement des etudes iraniennes 1992.

  • Sylvia Tomasch, Sealy Gilles (eds), Text and Territory: Geographical Imagination in the European Middle Ages, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press 1998.

  • Deborah G. Tor, ‘The Islamization of Central Asia in the Samanid era and the reshaping of the Muslim world’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (2009), 72 : pp 279-299.

  • Bo Utas, ‘A multiethnic origin of New Persian?’, in: Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas: Historical and Linguistic Aspects, ed. Lars Johanson & Christiane Bulut, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2006, pp. 241-251.


Registration via uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. G.R. van den Berg