Literary Canon and Patterns of Evaluation in Persian Prose on the Eve of the Mongol Invasion

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Acts of evaluation formed an important facet of literary activity in the Persian prose of the second half of the 6th/12th - early 7th/13th centuries. The present essay seeks to elucidate the nature of these evaluative procedures, as well as the ways in which they affected the creative strategies of Persian prose writers. In an attempt to establish the criteria for the evaluation and categorization of prose productions, the author draws on the evidence of texts which represent the translation and/or reworking of earlier works (such as the Marzbân-nâma of Sa'd al-Dîn Varâvînî and the Sindbâd-nâma by Zahîrî-yi Samarqandî), arguing for the prominence of the lingua-ornamental function as the dominant literary norm of the period. Several cases of enumeration of specific authors and their works are further examined, including the lists found in the Chahâr maqâla by Nizâmî-yi 'Arûdî and the Marzbân-nâma of Varâvînî as well as the scattered references to prose works in the earliest extant anthology (tazkira) Lubâb al-albâb by Muhammad-i 'Aufî. The perusal of these lists uncovers a clear pattern of including and excluding literary products, suggesting value differentiation between the sum total of prose works and hence the existence of a canonical corpus of texts, which enjoyed general approbation and served as models in the literary praxis of the period.
Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)47
Number of pages76
JournalStudia Iranica
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2003


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