E 322 • Omar Khayyam and His Place in Literature
3:30 PM-5:00 PM
This is a Persian literature in translation course, as well as a course in Middle Eastern culture, and English and world literatures. Using Edward FitzGeralds The Rubaíyát of Omar Khayyám (fifth edition, 1879) as the core text, the course first examines the life and works of Omar Khayyam (1048-1131), the history of the Turkic Saljuq dynasty and government on the Iranian plateau, and the Islamic backdrop to Khayyams life and times. In this context, culture-specific features of FitzGeralds poem receive careful attention.
The course then examines connections between FitzGeralds English poem and medieval Persian poems that inspired FitzGerald and treats the history of the quatrain tradition in Persian and English. In this context, the course traces the influence of Khayyamic quatrains and ideas and FitzGeralds poem on Persian and English literatures.
In the last-named regard, course attention then focuses on such works of T.S. Eliot (1896-1965) which FitzGeralds poem inspired or otherwise influenced as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and The Waste Land and on the minor world literature classic called The Blind Owl (1937, 1941) by the Iranian writer Sadeq Hedayat (1903-1951).
The course concludes with an appreciation of the Khayyamic world view in modernist art and modern life.
Class participation 10%
Four four-page essays on assigned topics (15% each) 60%
Final essay examination 30%
Edward FitzGerald, The Rubaíyát of Omar Khayyám (Dover Thrift Edition)
T.S. Eliot, The Waste Land and Other Poems (Centennial Edition or later)
The Koran, N.J. Dawood, translator (Penguin Classics)
The Blind Owl, D.P. Costello, translator (Grove Weidenfeld)
Course packet called Omar Khayyam and His Place in Literature