We’ve just published Hamid Dabashi’s The World of Persian Literary Humanism, and write today to share news of a discussion of the book taking place this very evening at the Asia Society in New York. The event, which features Dabashi in conversation with Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet, the University of Pennsylvania’s Robert I. Williams Term Professor of History, will be streamed live at AsiaSociety.org beginning at 6:30pm ET, and viewers are encouraged to submit questions throughout the talk.
Dabashi’s book, one of the most ambitious on our docket this fall, presents an exploration of 1,400 years of Persian literature in order to reconceive the question of what it means to be human, which has so long been dominated by a Western perspective. He tracks the emergence and spread of Persian literary humanism (Adab) from Bengal to Istanbul, from central Asia to the eastern coasts of Africa, always with present-day Iran as its epicenter. In his own rich prose, Dabashi gives us Persian literature as a river, “mighty and majestic,” the navigation of which demands “a fluidity of narrative that comes to terms with its existential immediacy, as if it had no history, and yet is fully aware of the expansive history that it tacitly flaunts.” This river of Persian literature, he writes, is “flowing from an infinity of historical sources, comes to you with the massive volume of its abiding presence, and leads to the immortality of a yet-to-be-named sea.”
As Dabashi explains in the video below (after a long gaze on the book’s physical presentation), this is a story he’s always wanted to write:
We write the books we wish we had to read. This book, in particular, is in effect a love letter to the literary heritage that has made me—and millions of other people like me—possible. Possible, I say, in our language and diction, in the mode and abode of our being, but above all, in the cosmopolitan worldliness that is—and is made possible by—Persian literature. I have put everything I have in it. My defiance against European Orientalist traditions, against Iranian nativist historiography, and against North American comparative literary criticism, overcoming them all and thus reclaiming the magnificent worldliness of Persian literary humanism.
At the Asia Society’s website you can read an interview with Dabashi, and remember to tune in to AsiaSociety.org/Live this evening to join him and Firoozeh Kashani-Sabet as they ride the river of Adab.