Persian Literary Influence on English Literature.

With Special Reference to the Nineteenth Century.

Series: Bibliotheca Iranica: Literature Series 8
Availability: In stock
Published: 2005
Page #: ix + 250
Size: 6 x 9
ISBN: 1-56859-097-0
bibliography, index, notes


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Quick Overview

This study has been divided into four parts. By these divisions it is hoped to demonstrate the development of English knowledge of the Persians, their way of life, culture, and more particularly their literature. The immediate concern of the study is to cover a period beginning from the late Middle Ages and ending about 1900 A.D. However, occasional references are made to works related to the subject and published later.

The first part embodies the early image of Persia. It singles out the English picture of Persia from the fabulous images that medieval Europe had formed of the East. This is followed by commercial contacts of the English with Iran, and the impact of the travelers’ accounts on Elizabethan and Restoration drama. The introduction of The Arabian Nights and other Oriental tales directed the English imagination towards the East. In a later period, mostly on account of the British administrative policy in India, the study of the languages of the East, in particular that of Persia, was seriously undertaken.

The second part deals with what Edgar Quinet has rightly designated as “La Rennaissance Orientale” The attempts of scholars to stress the significance of Oriental literatures, and to put them as equals to Classical and Biblical writings, were turning points in Western Orientalism. The second section of the second part studies the influence of this movement of English Romantics, with special references to Persian themes. The individualism of the Romantics has dictated the sub-division of this section into separate chapters, arranged according to the authors.

The third part is devoted to the English writers who had first-hand knowledge of Persia, a point which distinguishes them from the Romantics. They were travelers, who went to Persia mostly on account of British political interests, and published their observations in scholarly works about this country. As might be expected, a realistic presentation of the Persians was the natural result of the authors’ experiences. Eventually some of these travelers became novelists, and their works of fiction form the subject of the second chapter of this part.

The translations and imitations from Persian poets form the subject of the last part. This is divided according to the English interest as displayed in individual Persian poets. With very few exceptions, the translators and imitators were acquainted with Persian. Matthew Arnold is one of these exceptions: but as an outstanding tribute to the genius of Firdausi, “Rustum and Sohrab” allows Arnold to be counted among the men who brought Persian poets to the notice of the English public. The other exceptions, such as Tennyson and R. C. Trench, are only mentioned to illustrate certain aspects of Victorian Orientalism. In fact, this last phase of our central theme, the development of English knowledge of the Persians, was the continuation of a tendency, begun by Sir William Jones, to the free poetic translation of Persian poetry into English. The crowning success in this respect is FitzGerald’s Rubaiyat, where, more than verbal accuracy, faithfulness to the spirit of the original was in view. Different methods of translation and the possibility of fresh ways of presenting Persian literature are discussed.


Hasan Javadi

Hasan Javadi, born and educated in Tabriz, Iran, received his Ph.D. from Cambridge University in 1965, where he had been the Persian lector since 1963. He assisted Professor Arberry in the translation of Rumi’s “Mystical Poems” and later edited its second volume after Arberry’s death. Javadi served as chairman of the English department and taught English and Persian literature at the University of Tehran from 1966 until he went to U.C. Berkeley in 1977. There he taught Persian literature and history until moving to the Washington, D.C., area in 1990, where he has taught Middle Eastern literature and politics at George Washington and Catholic Universities. Among his published works are “Letters from Tabriz” by E. G. Browne (1971), “Persian Literary Influence on English Literature” (Mazda Publishers, 2005), “Satire in Persian Literature” (1985), “European Travelers in Iran” (2000), and translations (both in English and Persian) of the works of Forugh Farrokhzad, Simin Danishvar, Ghulam-Husain Sa’edi, ‘Obeyd-e Zakani, E. M. Forster, A. J. Arberry, Evliya Chelebi, Bakikhanov and many others. Javadi has written numerous articles on Iranian and Azerbaijani history, literature, Islamic thought and Persian art. Two of his recent works are “Edward Browne ve Iran” (Tehran 2017) and an extended version of “The Persian Literary Influence on English Literature” (in Persian) to include works from the sixteenth century to the present (Tehran, 2018).

Ch. 1 The early image
Ch. 2 Persian scholarship and the romantics
Ch. 3 The romantics and Persia
Ch. 4 Travelers and novelists
Ch. 5 Persian poets and their translators and imitators

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