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POSTPONED: TAPSA: On Being Black in Fayżi’s 𝘕𝘢𝘭 𝘰 𝘋𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘯: Poetic Adaptations of Nala and Damayantī into a Persian Mas̱navi

November 18, 2021 - 5:00pm

Virtual Event

This talk has been postponed to a later date in 2022. Please check back for date.

Alexandra Hoffman, PhD Candidate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, The University of Chicago

Nal, one of the protagonists of Abo’l Fayż Fayżi’s (d. 1595 CE) mas̱navi 𝘕𝘢𝘭 𝘰 𝘋𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘯, loses everything in a dice-game when he finds himself possessed by ʿ𝘦𝘴𝘩𝘲 (passionate love) and 𝘫𝘰𝘯𝘶𝘯 (madness). After a snake bite turns him black from head to toe, he must remain in this disguise for his chance to regain both his royal status and previous appearance. This talk discusses Nal’s transformation as an entanglement of ʿ𝘦𝘴𝘩𝘲, selfhood, and masculinity, and situates the poem in the intertextual nexus of the 𝘔𝘢𝘩ā𝘣𝘩ā𝘳𝘢𝘵𝘢 and Neẓāmi’s 𝘓𝘢𝘺𝘭𝘪 𝘰 𝘔𝘢𝘫𝘯𝘶𝘯 (1188 CE).
Hoffman argues that Nal’s change of appearance is a crucial element in the adaptation of the Sanskrit material for a Persianate audience. Conceived as a 𝘫𝘢𝘷ā𝘣 (lit. “answer”) to Neẓāmi’s famous romance 𝘓𝘢𝘺𝘭𝘪 𝘰 𝘔𝘢𝘫𝘯𝘶𝘯, Fayżi’s 𝘕𝘢𝘭 𝘰 𝘋𝘢𝘮𝘢𝘯 is fully integrated into a Persianate poetic framework. When Fayżi changes the Sanskrit Nala – a dwarf in an epic – into a black lover in a Persianate romance, he changes what the transformed Nal signifies in the story. The narrative focus is not so much on a failed king, desolate and robbed of his royal body, as it is on the figure of the lover, modelled in part on Neẓāmi’s Majnun, an embodiment of a lover-masculinity that was known and appreciated as such.

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