Persian and Iranian Studies in Honor of Heshmat Moayyad

Heshmatollah Moayyad Sanandaji (1927-2018) was born in a Baha’i household in Hamadan, Iran, in 1927, moved with his family to Tehran during the reign of Reza Shah, received his B.A. in Persian and Arabic from the University of Tehran after the Second World War, and went to Germany to pursue his studies, obtaining a doctorate from J.W. von Goethe University of Frankfurt in 1958. After teaching at the Istituto Orientale di Napoli, and at Harvard University, he came to the University of Chicago in 1966, where he taught for over forty years, until his retirement in 2010.

Professor Moayyad’s early research focused on manuscripts of Sufi hagiographical texts and collections of medieval letters, for which he produced with expert philological acumen the first modern critical editions.  He also wrote and taught extensively about Persian poetry, from the earliest period to the present, contributing regularly to the Encyclopaedia IranicaIran Nameh, and Iran Shenasi.  He also maintained a keen interest in Iran’s modern literature, translating novels, poetry and short stories from Persian into German and English.  In both his teaching and his research, he drew attention to the contribution of women to the literature of Iran, leading inter alia, to an edition of the Persian poems, as well as an English translation, of Parvin Eʽtesâmi. He maintained an extensive correspondence with writers, scholars, and intellectuals, and helped facilitate the visit of many renowned figurers in the field to the University of Chicago. In the 1980s he established a monthly Persian poetry night (shab-e sheʽr) and a weekly Persian Circle for the benefit of both students at the university and the growing Iranian diaspora community in Chicago.  As persecution of his fellow Baha’is increased in Iran, he turned his scholarly attentions increasingly to publishing collections of letters and other works of prominent Persophone Baha’is, as well as biographical works about prominent Baha’is he had known, some of them documented in his travelogue from the 1940s, published near the end of his life.

This two-day Conference of Persian and Iranian Studies Conference in memory of Heshmat Moayyad  brings together 16 of his former students or colleagues whose work intersected in various ways with his own.  Professor Moayyad was one of the early founders of Iranian Studies in North America, and we come together to celebrate his legacy, remember his gentleness and humor, and discuss many of the topics with which he passionately engaged.

This program was made possible by the generous support of
The American Institute of Iranian Studies,
and the sponsorship of multiple programs at the University of Chicago, including:
The Center for Middle Eastern Studies  /  The Committee on South Asian Studies   The Franke Institute for the Humanities /  The Joyce Z. &  Jacob Greenberg Center for Jewish Studies / The Persian Circle at the University of Chicago / The Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations

DAY 1: Friday 8 March, Franke Institute, Regenstein Library

8:30am Coffee & Refreshments

Panel I:  In Memory of Our Ostad, Prof. Heshmat Moayyad (1927-2018)       
Chair: John Woods, NELC, University of Chicago

9:00am  “Heshmat Moayyad: Iranian Baha’i Scholar”
              -- Franklin Lewis
                 Chair, Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, University of Chicago
9:25am  Poem for Ostad Moayyad
            -- Saeed Yousef (Ghahremani)
               Department of Near Eastern Languages & Civilizations, University of
9:35am  “Religious syncretism and Social Change: Jews of Hamadan, 1880s to
             -- Mehrdad Amanat
                 Fellow, Iranian Studies Initiative, University of California Santa Barbara
10:20am  Discussion

10:35-10:45am Coffee

Panel II:  Khorasani Sufism and the Articulation of an Iranian Islamic Spirituality 
Chair: Thibaut d’Hubert, South Asian Languages & Civilizations, UChicago

10:45am  “From Blessed Lips: The Textualization of Abu Saʿid’s Dicta and Deeds”
                  -- Austin O'Malley
                     School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies, University of
11:30am  “Shaykh Ahmad-e Jâm, the Colossal Elephant, Revisited”
                 -- Franklin Lewis
                    Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, University
                    of Chicago
12:15pm  Discussion

12:30-2:00  Lunch

Panel III:  Persian Narrative Poetry and the Creation of Literary Identity
Chair: John Perry, emeritus, NELC, University of Chicago

2:00pm  “‘The Earth My Throne, The Heavens My Crown’:
                 Siyavash as Supranational Hero in Firdawsi’s Shahnama
                -- Alyssa Gabbay
                Department of Religious Studies, University of North Carolina,
2:45pm  “The Sources of Varqa and Golshāh
                 -- Cameron Cross
                 Department of Middle East Studies, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor
3:30pm   Discussion

3:45-4:00  Coffee

Panel IV:  Persian and the Post-Mongol Global Persianate
Chair:    Cornell Fleischer, NELC, University of Chicago

4:00pm  “Nef‘i and the Persistence of Persian Poetic Production among Ottoman
                Literati in the Seventeenth Century”
                -- Sooyong Kim
                Department of English Language and Comparative Literature, Koç
                University, Istanbul
4:45pm  “‘Over above and under below’: The Description of Poetry in Zohuri’s
                --Paul Losensky
                Departments of Comparative Literature, and Central Eurasian Studies,
                Indiana University, Bloomington    
5:30pm  Discussion

6:30-8:30pm  Conference Dinner at the Quad Club

DAY 2:  Saturday 9 March, Franke Institute, Regenstein Library

9:00am  Coffee and Refreshments

Panel V: Babi and Baha’i Studies
Chair:  Orit Bashkin, Center for Middle Eastern Studies and NELC, Univ. of Chicago

9:30am  “The Mystical Poetics of Exegesis:  The Bab’s Tafsir surat al-baqara
               -- Todd Lawson
               Department of Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations, Emeritus,
               University of Toronto
10:15am “New Considerations about Tahirih Qurrat al-`Ayn:  Her Activism,
                Theology & Poetry
                --Abbas Amanat
                Department of History, Yale University
11:00am  “Pathologizing Iran: How Medical Concepts were Deployed in
                Anti-Baha’i Discourse”
                Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi
                Department of Historical Studies, University of Toronto, Missasauga
11:45am  Discussion

Noon- 1:15pm Lunch

Panel VI:  Recovering the Voices of Women in Persian Literature
Chair:  Judith Wilks, Northwestern University (retired)

1:15pm  “Making Room in the Canon for Two Early Persian Poets: Rabi`a and
              --Sunil Sharma
              Department of World Languages and Literatures, Boston University
2:00pm  “Fakhr-e Ozma Arghun: poet of late Qajar and early Pahlavi Iran”
               -- Dominic Parviz Brookshaw
               University of Oxford
2:45pm  “Forough Farrokhzad: 50 years after her death”
               -- Farzaneh Milani
               Depts. of Women, Gender & Sexuality, and Middle Eastern and South
               Asian Languages & Cultures, University of Virginia
3:30pm  Discussion

3:45-4:00pm  Coffee

PANEL VII: Fiction and Film in Iran, 20th and 21st Centuries
Chair:   Holly Shissler, Center for Middle Eastern Studies and NELC, Univ. of Chicago

4:00pm  “State-Sponsored Serial Murder in Film and Fiction Banned in Iran"
                --Paul Sprachman
                Rutgers University (Retired) 
4:45pm  “The Love Song of M. Sadegh Hedayat: The Blind Owl Revisited”
                -- Michael Hillmann
                Middle Eastern Studies, University of Texas, Austin
5:30pm  Discussion and Summation

6:00pm Reception

Presenters (in order of appearance)

As a poet, Saeed Yousef has been publishing poems in Persian since mid-1960s. He has a PhD in comparative literature from the University of Toronto and has been teaching at the University of Chicago since 2002.

Mehrdad Amanat holds a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (1976), Master of Arts in Islamic Studies (1979) and a Ph.D. in History (2006) from UCLA. He is the author of Jewish Identities in Iran, Resistance and conversion to Islam and the Baha’i Faith (I.B. Tauris 2011). He is a regular contributor to Encyclopedia Iranicaand is the author of numerous articles and book reviews. He is currently working on Dynamics of violence in modern Iran, medieval and modern Persian cities and  Representations of Persian literature in Classical Persian Music.

Austin O’Malley is a 2017 graduate of the NELC department at the University of Chicago, and he is currently an assistant professor in the School of Middle Eastern and North African Studies at the University of Arizona. His work has appeared in Iranian Studies and Encyclopaedia Iranica, and he is currently writing a monograph on ʿAṭṭâr and sufi didactic poetry entitled Guided by Verses: Persian Didacticism and the Poetics of Spiritual Instruction.

A graduate of NELC at the University of Chicago (1995), Franklin Lewis taught at Emory University from 1997-2005, and is now Associate Professor and Chair of NELC at the University of Chicago. His research focuses on Persian literature and philology, Sufism and Islamic Thought, and Baha’i Studies.  Among his publications are Rumi: Past and Present, East and West, which received the book of the year award from British Society of Middle Eastern Studies and has been translated into Arabic, Danish, Persian, and Turkish.  His translations from Persian include Rumi: Swallowing the Sun, Zoyâ Pirzâd’s Things We Left Unsaid, and In a Voice of their Own: Stories written by Iranian women since the Revolution of 1979.

Alyssa Gabbay is assistant professor in the Department of Religious Studies at University of North Carolina at Greensboro. She received her Ph.D. from University of Chicago, where she studied classical Persian literature and medieval Islamic history. Gabbay is the author of Islamic Tolerance: Amir Khusraw and Pluralism (London: Routledge, 2010) and numerous journal articles and book chapters. Her latest book, Gender and Succession in Medieval and Early Modern Islam: Bilateral Descent and the Legacy of Fatima, is scheduled to be published later this year by I.B. Tauris. She is also working on a critical edition and translation of Amir Khusraw’s Dībāchah-’i Dīvān-i Ghurrat al-Kamāl (under contract with Murty Classical Library of India, Harvard University Press). Her research interests include gender and Islam, Shi‘ism, Indo-Persian culture, and religious pluralism.

Cameron Cross joined the University of Chicago as an M.A. student in 2005, a fortuitous time when both Professors Heshmat Moayyad and Franklin Lewis were teaching courses on Persian literature. He continued studying with Prof. Moayyad until his retirement, and hearing him share his experiences working with venerable scholars like Khanlari, Ritter, and Bausani number among his fondest memories from that time. Under his mentors' tutelage, Cameron developed an interest in classical Persian poetry, particularly the romances of Nezami, which has led him into a number of research projects in both the epic and romance traditions of the pre-Mongol period, including a book-in-progress on the early romance Vis & Ramin. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Iranian Studies at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, where he teaches courses on Persian and comparative literature, Middle Eastern intellectual history, and Iranian cinema. 

Sooyong Kim is an Assistant Professor in the Department of English Language and Comparative Literature at Koç University. His current research focuses on Ottoman literati practices in the seventeenth century, with particular attention to multilingual practices, in verse and prose. His most recent publications include The Last of an Age: The Making and Unmaking of a Sixteenth-Century Ottoman Poet, an account of literary canon-making, and a chapter on “Persian Literature in Anatolia and the Ottoman Realms” in A History of Persian Literature (volume IX).

Paul Losensky (Ph.D. University of Chicago, 1993) is Professor in the Department of Central Eurasian Studies and the Department of Comparative Literature at Indiana University, Bloomington, where he teaches Persian language and literature, comparative studies of Western and Middle Eastern literatures, and translation studies. His research focusses on Persian literary historiography, biographical writing, and Persian poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. His publications include Welcoming Fighāni: Imitation and Poetic Individuality in the Safavid-Mughal Ghazal (1998), Farid ad-Din ‘Attār's Memorial of God's Friends: Lives and Sayings of Sufis (2009), and In the Bazaar of Love: Selected Poems of Amir Khusrau (2013, with Sunil Sharma). He has authored numerous articles on Persian literature for journals such as Iranian Studies and is a frequent contributor to Encyclopedia of Islam and Encyclopaedia Iranica. He is a former fellow at the National Humanities Center and currently serves as chair of the Department of Comparative Literature.

Todd Lawson is Emeritus Professor of Islamic Thought at the University of Toronto where he began teaching in 1986. He retired from normal duties in 2014. He has published on Qur’an commentary, shi’ism, Sufism, the Babi and Bahá’í religions. His 2 vol Roads to Paradise appeared in 2016. His Qur’an, Epic and Apocalypse in 2017 and Tafsir as Mystical Experience in 2018. He lives in Montreal with his wife Barbara.

Abbas Amanat is William Graham Sumner Professor of History at Yale University, and Director of the Yale Program in Iranian Studies. His most recent book is Iran: A Modern History (Yale University Press, 2017). His other publications include: Apocalyptic Islam and Iranian Shi’ism; Pivot of the Universe: Nasir al-Din Shah Qajar and the Iranian Monarchy; and Resurrection and Renewal: The Making of the Babi Movement in Iran. His recent co-edited volume, Persianate World: A Conceptual Inquiry, is published by Brill in 2018.

Mohamad Tavakoli-Targhi is Professor of Historical Studies, History, and Near and Middle Eastern Civilizations at the University of Toronto. He was the founding Chair of the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Toronto-Mississauga (2004-07), and has served as President of the International Society for Iranian Studies (2008-10). In addition to serving as Editor-in-Chief of Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (2001-2012), a Duke University Press journal, he was the Editor of Iran Nameh (2011-2015). He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of Iran Namag, a bilingual quarterly of Iranian Studies, and is the coeditor of the Iranian Studies book series published by Routledge. In addition to three edited books, he is the author of Refashioning Iran: Orientalism, Occidentalism and Historiography (2001) and Tajaddud-i Bumi [Vernacular Modernity] (2003 and 2017). He is currently completing a manuscript titled, Pathologizing Iran.

Sunil Sharma is Professor of Persianate and Comparative Literature at Boston University's Department of World Languages and Literatures. His most recent book is Mughal Arcadia: Persian Poetry in an Indian Court. His research interests are in the areas of Persian(ate) literary and visual cultures, translation, and travel writing. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Persianate Societies, Studies in Persian Culture, and Murty Classical Library of India,and is the current President of the Association for the Study of Persianate Societies.

Dominic Parviz Brookshaw is Associate Professor of Persian Literature at the University of Oxford, and Senior Research Fellow in Persian at Wadham College. From 2011-2013 he was Assistant Professor of Persian Literature and Comparative Literature at Stanford University. Dominic currently serves on the Editorial Board of Middle Eastern Literatures and, for a decade (2004-2014), he served as Assistant Editor for Iranian Studies. He is a former member of both the Board of the International Society for Iranian Studies, and the Governing Council of the British Institute of Persian Studies. His latest book is Hafiz and His Contemporaries: Poetry, Performance, and Patronage in Fourteenth-century Iran(I B Tauris/Bloomsbury, 2019).

Farzaneh Milani is Raymond J. Nelson Professor of Iranian Studies, former Chair of the Department of Middle Eastern and South Asian Languages and Cultures and former Director of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at the University of Virginia. She is the author of Veils and Words: The Emerging Voices of Iranian Women WritersA Cup of Sin: Selected Poems of Simin Behbahani, with Kaveh Safa (winner of Lois Roth Literary Award in Translation); and Words, not Swords:Iranian Women Writers and the Freedom of Movement (co-winner of Latifeh Yarshater Book Award), The Literary Biography of Forugh Farrokhzad with Unpublished Letters, and the translator of Forugh Farrokhzad’s first poetry collection, Captive. She has published over one hundred articles, epilogues, forewords, and afterwords in both Persian and English. She has served as the guest editor for special issues of Nimeye-DigarIran Nameh, and Iranian Studies. She has written for the New York Times, the Washington PostChristian ScienceMonitorMsMagazineReader’s DigestUSA Today, and contributed to National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. She has presented more than 250 lectures nationally and internationally. A past president of the Association of Middle Eastern Women’s Studies in America, Milani was nominated for Virginia Faculty of the Year in 1999. She was a Carnegie Scholar (2006-2007) and “Iranian Woman of the Year” in 2012.

Paul Sprachman first began to understand Persian (Dari) as a Peace Corps volunteer teaching English as a second language and trigonometry at Lyceé Sena’i in Ghazni, Afghanistan. He and his wife Susan served for two years in Afghanistan, and, before returning to the United States, traveled to Iran, Thailand, Burma, Singapore, Indonesia, England, and France. After studying Arabic and Persian at the University of Chicago and at the Ma’had Bourguiba in Tunis, Sprachman went to Iran to study Persian at the University of Tehran. One year later he took a position at the University of Isfahan teaching English to Iranians and Persian to non-native speakers from many parts of the world. He and Susan lived in Isfahan for three years. After leaving Iran, Sprachman worked at Columbia University as a researcher and, later, at Rutgers University where he taught Middle Eastern studies and Persian. Sprachman is the translator of a number of works from Persian to English. Among them are Gharbzadegi (“Plagued by the West”) by Jalal Al-e Ahmad; Once Upon a Time by M. A. Jamalzadeh; A Man of Many Worlds: the Memoirs of Dr. Ghasem GhaniJourney to Heading 270o by Ahmad Dehqan; Chess with the Doomsday Machine and A City under Siege: Tales of the Iran-Iraq War by Habib Ahmadzadeh; One Woman’s War: Da by Zahra Hoseyni; and Two Centuries of Silence by Abdolhussein Zarrinkoub. Sprachman is also the author of two studies of censored Persian writing: Suppressed Persian: an Anthology of Forbidden Literature and Licensed Fool: the Damnable, Foul-mouthed Obeyd-e Zakani as well as a study of modern Persian Language and Culture in Persian. His latest translation from the Persian is Two Centuries of Silence by Abdol Hossein Zarrinoub. Currently he is working on a study of erotic literature in Persian.

Michael Craig Hillmann (Ph.D., NELC, The University of Chicago, 1974; M.A., English, Texas State University at San Marcos, 1997) teaches autobiography, Persian poetry, Iranian culture, and world poetry at The University of Texas at Austin and has four projects in the works: an essay called “Hāfez’s Love Ghazals qua Poetry,” a textbook called Classics of Persian Poetry: A Primer for Students, a monograph called The Blind Owl: The Love Song of M. Sadegh Hedayat, and an autobiographical volume called To and From a Village in Maine.