Biographical anthologies (tazkirahs) have always been among the most important sources for Persian literary history. They offer, among other things, information about poets’ lives; perspectives on stylistic trends in given contexts; and documentation of practices such as javab-gu’i (imitatio) and extemporaneous verse composition. Researchers have traditionally utilized tazkirahs by focusing on notices for individual poets, or perhaps a few poets at a time. It is often the case that we are studying a certain figure, and so we look for discussion of him or her across a range of tazkirahs—treating the texts as reference sources. This can be a productive approach, but there are aspects of literary anthologies that are unlikely to emerge without more sustained reading. One such feature is the sense of geography that can be developed in a tazkirah. Where are the poets from, and where do they ply their trade? Are there distinct clusters? Does the author include descriptions of migration? To answer questions like these, we need to invest the time to explore an anthology on its own terms. This paper will present some of the conclusions resulting from a comprehensive study of an early Safavid tazkirah, the Tuhfah-i Sami (ca. 957/1550).
This is part of a panel session, with colleagues from Freie Universität Berlin and elsewhere, titled “Mapping the Literary Corpus: The Geography of Early Modern Persian Tazkiras.” The exact time of the session has not yet been set.