nl en

History of Persian Language and Literature


Admission requirements

  • Admission requirements for students track Persian: successful completion of Persian Language and Culture 1.

  • No requirements for students from other tracks/programmes.


Today, Persian is one of the major languages spoken in Iran, Afghanistan and the Central Asian republic of Tajikistan; in these three nation states, Persian is known as respectively Farsi, Dari and Tajiki. Speakers of Persian take great pride in the rich history and literature of this language and that is certainly not without reason. The scope and impact Persian language and literature have had throughout the ages is up until today tangible in a region that far exceeds the boundaries of the three present-day nation states in which Persian is a majority language. This region is often described as the “Persianate world”- a term that indicates a large area without fixed borders, stretching from the Balkans to the Malay Archipelago. In this course, we are going to explore aspects of this rich history, starting with Persian in the ancient Persian Empire of the Achaemenid kings and ending with Persian in present-day Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. In the framework of this course, we will investigate the idea of the “Persianate world” in relation to cultural heritage and collective memory. In order to do so, we will look into some of the characteristcs of the Persian language and the family of Iranian languages, to which Persian belongs. We will specifically examine and discuss the materials produced in Persian or in connection to Persian and the impact and implications of this textual and material output. This means that we will pay ample attention to some of the highlights of Persian literature, such as as the works of Ferdowsi, Omar Khayyam, Rumi, Sadi and Hafez, who not only live on in the collective memory of the region described as the Persianate world, but also in a variety of media and languages on a global stage, as we shall see. In this course, we shall make use of materials in English (or, if applicable, Dutch) translation and in Persian: knowledge of Persian is welcome but by no means required. Those who follow the track Persian in the Middle Eastern Studies programme will be required to work with a representative corpus of materials in Persian; other participants will work with materials in translation.

Course objectives

At the end of the course participants will have acquired knowledge on and insight into the nature and position of the Persian language and its literature from a broad perspective. They will have studied a specific corpus of Persian literature that has become part of the literary canon in the Persianate world and beyond, and they will have obtained insight into this process of canonization. They will be able to understand and contextualize a number of representative examples of Persian literature, either in Persian or in translation, and will be able to relate these materials to the broader field of Middle Eastern Studies and to the societies, cultures and religions of the Middle East and Asia. They will have obtained insight into patterns of reception, appropriation and politicization of texts and text-related materials in a diachronic perspective, and will be able to reflect on these in speech and in writing.


The timetables are avalable through My Timetable.

Mode of instruction

  • Seminar

Attendance and active participation are obligatory for seminars. Students are required to prepare for and attend all sessions. The course is offered as part of a full-time program of studies, and therefore work commitments, holidays, or overseas travel do not constitute valid reasons for absence. The lecturer should be informed in writing of any classes to be missed for a valid reason (i.e., due to unforeseen circumstances that are beyond the student’s control, such as documented illness, family bereavement, problems with residence permits, victim of crime, or railway delays). In case of a justified absence, it is up to the Lecturer to decide whether the missed class should be made up with an extra assignment. The maximum of such absences during a semester is two. Please note that you are required to provide documentation that supports your case for absence where possible. Absence without notification and approval could result in a grade deduction, or in work not being marked and a failing grade for the course.

Assessment method

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity.
Plagiarism will not be tolerated. It is assumed that students' work is their own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations). Students may not substantially reuse any work they have previously submitted in this or other courses. Minor overlap with previous work is allowed as long as it is duly noted in citation.
Assignment(s) must be submitted to Brightspace through Turnitin, so they can be checked for plagiarism. Submission via email is not accepted.


Exam, presentations and essays


Weighted average
Exam 50%
Essays 40%
Presentations 10 %


There is only a resit opportunity for the exam.

Inspection and feedback

How and when an exam review will take place will be disclosed together with the publication of the exam results at the latest. If a student requests a review within 30 days after publication of the exam results, an exam review will have to be organized.

Reading list

A reading list will be provided at the beginning of the course. It will include a.o.:

  • J.T.P. de Bruijn (ed.). General Introduction to Persian Literature. London: IB Tauris, 2009

  • Nile Green (ed.). The Persianate World. The Frontiers of a Eurasian Lingua Franca. Oakland, California: University of California Press, 2019.

  • Annemarie Schimmel. A Two-Colored Brocade. The imagery of Persian Poetry. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1992.


Enrolment through My Studymap is mandatory.


  • For substantive questions, contact the lecturer listed in the right information bar.

  • For questions about enrolment, admission, etc, contact the Education Administration Office: De Vrieshof.


If there are only Dutch speakers, this course will be taught in Dutch.