Upcoming Events

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

April 7, 2022 - 12pm

Virtual Event

Alexandra Hoffman, PhD Candidate in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, 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). In the adaptation of the Sanskrit material for a Persianate audience, Nal’s change of appearance is a crucial element. 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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