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Persian Literature outside Iran: A Literary History


Admission requirements

Admission to the MA Middle Eastern Studies, specialisation Persian Studies or the MA Middle Eastern Studies (research) with sufficient knowledge of Persian (three year of education at BA-level; level B2 European Common Framework). Please, contact the student advisor, Nicole A.N.M. van Os or Dr. G.R. van den Berg, if you are interested in taking this course, but NOT a student admitted to one of the above-mentioned master programmes or if you are not confident regarding your level of Persian.


The Iranian cultural area is much larger than the area covered by the modern states of Iran, Afghanistan and Tajikistan. Iranian languages are spoken in an area stretching from China to Turkey and from the Caucasus to Oman. Persian is the most widespread Iranian language and has been until quite recently a lingua franca and a literary language in large parts of Central Asia and India. As the language of refined culture, Persian has deeply influenced the literary output of the Ottoman and the Moghul empires, and Persian literature in turn has been formed and enriched by the influence of Indian, Arabic and Greek literary heritage. At least two of the following topics will be covered:

  • The Rise and Flourishing of Persian in Central Asia

  • Persian in the Indian Subcontinent and Indian elements in Persian

  • Imagination and Geography: Alexander the Great in Persian literature

  • Travelling poets, wandering poems: Rumi through the ages

  • From Persian to Tajik: Muslim and Jewish childhoods in Central Asia

Course objectives

To gain insight in the nature, context and function of Persian writing and art produced in Central Asia, India, and present-day Afghanistan, in connection to Persian literary and cultural history.



Mode of instruction

  • Tutorial

Course Load

Total: 280 hrs.

  • Seminars 2×2 hrs per week: 26 hours

  • Studying the compulsory literature (ca. 400 pages, ca 10 pages per hour): 40 hours

  • Preparation weekly coursework: 5 hrs per week x 12: 60 hours

  • Midterm paper: 30 hours

  • Preparing oral presentation progress research paper: 10 hours

  • Research paper: 114 hours

Assessment method

  • AQCI (w): 20%

  • Presentation of research topic for term paper (op): 20%

  • Term paper of 4000 words max. related to one of the topics treated in this course (wp): 40%

  • Active participation in class and preparation of weekly course work (part): 20%
    Students who fail the course (get a total grade of lower than 5.45) will have to retake the total course.



Reading list

Preliminary & general reading only: full reading lists will be provided during the course.

  • Michele Bernardini, ‘Variables in the Persophonie System’, in: Iran und iranisch geprägte Kulturen, ed. Markus Ritter, Ralph Kauz & Birgit Hoffmann, Wiesbaden: Ludwig Reichert Verlag 2008, pp. 167-173.

  • Gilbert Lazard, ‘The Rise of the New Persian Language’ in: Cambridge History of Iran, vol. IV, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1975, pp. 595-632.

  • John Perry, ‘The Origin and Development of Literary Persian’, in: General Introduction to Persian Literature, ed. J.T.P. de Bruijn, London: I.B. Tauris 2009, pp. 43-70 (chapter 2).

  • Deborah G. Tor, ‘The Islamization of Central Asia in the Samanid era and the reshaping of the Muslim world’, Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies (2009), 72 : pp 279-299.

  • Bo Utas, ‘A multiethnic origin of New Persian?’, in: Turkic-Iranian Contact Areas: Historical and Linguistic Aspects, ed. Lars Johanson & Christiane Bulut, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz 2006, pp. 241-251.


Registration via uSis

Exchange and Study Abroad students, please see the Study in Leiden website for information on how to apply

Contact information

Dr. G.R. van den Berg


Attendence is required.

Students with disabilities

The university is committed to supporting and accommodating students with disabilities as stated in the university protocol (especially pages 3-5). Students should contact Fenestra Disability Centre at least four weeks before the start of their courses to ensure that all necessary academic accomodations can be made in time conform the abovementioned protocol.

Academic Integrity

Students are expected to be familiar with Leiden University policies on plagiarism and academic integrity. Plagiarism will not be tolerated. If you submit any work with your name affixed to it, it is assumed to be your own work with all sources used properly indicated and documented in the text (with quotations and/or citations).