From the Biblical period and Classical Antiquity to the rise of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, aspects of Persian culture have been integral to European history. A diverse constellation of European artists, poets, and thinkers have looked to Persia for inspiration, finding there a rich cultural counterpoint and frame of reference. Interest in all things Persian was no passing fancy but an enduring fascination that has shaped not just Western views but the self-image of Iranians up to the present day. Persophilia maps the changing geography of connections between Persia and the West over the centuries and shows that traffic in ideas about Persia and Persians did not travel on a one-way street.
How did Iranians respond when they saw themselves reflected in Western mirrors? Expanding on Jürgen Habermas’s theory of the public sphere, and overcoming the limits of Edward Said, Hamid Dabashi answers this critical question by tracing the formation of a civic discursive space in Iran, seeing it as a prime example of a modern nation-state emerging from an ancient civilization in the context of European colonialism. The modern Iranian public sphere, Dabashi argues, cannot be understood apart from this dynamic interaction.
Persophilia takes into its purview works as varied as Xenophon’s Cyropaedia and Nietzsche’s Thus Spoke Zarathustra, Handel’s Xerxes and Puccini’s Turandot, and Gauguin and Matisse’s fascination with Persian art. The result is a provocative reading of world history that dismantles normative historiography and alters our understanding of postcolonial nations.
A lively and erudite account of Persophilia…Whenever Dabashi discusses particular writers, Iranian or Western, his enthusiasm brims over; his love for literature, whether in Persian or English, German or French, shines through and animates his prose…His astute capsule descriptions of 19th- and 20th-century Iranian writers, most of whom remain unknown in the West, will come as both provocative and enlightening to even the most jaded Persophile.
Generates new ways of thinking about global culture that do away with tired dichotomies such as East and West, center and periphery, and tradition and modernity…[An] urgent and impressive accomplishment.
A work of quietly revolutionary insight. By following the work of Persian art and literature not only out of its original courtly environment and into conflict and often collusion with the West, Dabashi adds a much-needed undercurrent to the entire school of thought that originated with Said’s Orientalism.
New insight into the way Europeans conceived of and shaped representations of Persian literature, culture, and aesthetics…Provides us with a Persian counterpart to Edward Said’s Orientalism…An ambitious text that by its very nature will spark debate amongst scholars specializing in the innumerable fields it discusses.
Hamid Dabashi tells an elegant and startling story about the significance of Persian culture in Western society, and how Western ideas about Persian culture shaped modern Iran’s notions of its antiquity and literary history.
Hamid Dabashi’s scholarly investigation into Persophilia—the attraction that Iran’s literary humanism held for giants of European culture including Mozart, Goethe, and Nietzsche—turns simplistic views of ‘Orientalism’ upside down. His penetrating account of a global conversation lasting centuries forces us to rethink tired old clichés about European cultural hegemony.
- 296 pages
- 6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches
- Harvard University Press
From this author
Sorry, there was an error adding the item to your shopping bag.
Sorry, your session has expired. Please refresh your browser's tab.