Textual Transmissions: Nezami Ganjavi, Layli and Majnun

We will begin the discussion around the text before coming to the story of Layla and Manjun proper,  in order to reveal or illuminate an aspect of global cultural history:  transmissions of texts across cultures.   Ganjavi’s epic poems stand at several cross roads, pre-Islamic and Islamic,  modern and ancient ,  east and west, Persian and Arab.    We will look back to an important source for Nezami, Ferdowsi’s Shahnameh, who looked back to preislamic lore and myths; and we will look ahead to the 14th century when Nezami’s Khamsa is purchased by European kings, as well as to the 16th century when it is gifted to Italian rRenaissance courts; we will look east to India, to Khosrow’s adaptions, and west to Ottoman and Turkish renderings.

Layla and Majnun inspired many poets to write their own versions  of Layli and Majnun.  In light of a recent discussion at the university about  “appropriate punishments for ‘self-plagerism'” we will probe into the logic of various types of repetitions:   borrowing, plagerism, commemoration, and working through…    What is the difference between a repetition and a working through, to use a psychoanalytic term?   Can a self in fact ever remain in character—to use Daniel Day lewis’s speech this week at BAFTA—if one does not repeat oneself?

What is the status of the new anyway? What makes something new, or something a borrowing? Can one keep saying the same things, until one is heard?  And gets s response?

Majnun after all, repeated only one word… even if he wrote many poems we would never hear.  We only know they were beautiful.  What keeps him repeating laili’s name?

1. Discussion topics for Ganjavi’s Layli and Majnun:   What is the significant of a “name”, and the specific names in the poem?; Love: how does Majnun’s love compare with the eros at Plato’s Symposium? Which definition of eros does Majnun’s resemble the most? Or differ?; Madness: what is majnun’s madness standing for in this poem? Is it idealized? is it condemned? Why cant he be cured?; Wondering, meandering, home and wilderness; Love: What vs. Who?; role of  friendship and community; Compare to modern verstion, SILVER LINE PLAYBOOK?


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