Persian studies at UIUC


Persian literature (ادبیات فارسی ) is one of the world's oldest and richest literary traditions. It spans two-and-a-half millennia, though much of the pre-Islamic material has been lost. Its sources have been within historical Persian Empire including present-day Iran, Iraq, Azerbaijan, as well as regions of Central Asia where the Persian language has historically been the national language. For instance, Molana (Rumi), one of Persia's most beloved poets, was born in Balkh (in what is now Afghanistan). He wrote in Persian, and lived then died in Konya, the capital of the Seljuk at the time (in what is now Turkey). Some even consider works written by ethnic Persians in other languages, such as Greek and Arabic, to be included. At the same time, not all literature written in Persian is written by ethnic Persians/Iranians.

Described as one of the greatest literatures of mankind, classical Persian literature has its roots in the surviving works of Middle Persian and Old Persian, the latter of which dates back as far as 522 BCE (the date of the earliest surviving Achaemenid inscription, the Bistun Inscription). Persian literature was considered by Goethe as one of the four main bodies of world literature. The bulk of surviving Persian literature, however, comes from the times following the Islamic conquest of Persia circa 650 CE. After the Abbasids came into power (750 CE), the Persians became the scribes and bureaucrats of the Islamic empire and, inevitably, also its writers and poets.

Some of the famous works of classical Persian literature are the Shahnameh, the great Persian epic, by Ferdowsi (شاهنامه فردوسی), Bustan and Golestan by Sa’di (بوستان و گلستان سعدی), Masnavi-e-Ma’navi and Divan-e Shams by Rumi(مثنوی معنوی و دیوان شمس مولانا رومی), Rubaiyat by Omar Khayyam (رباعیات عمر خیام), Divan-e Hafiz (دیوان حافظ), "The Conference of the Birds" by Attar (منطق الطیرعطار), and "Vis-o-Raamin" by Fakhrodin Gorgani(ویس و رامین فخرالدین گرگانی).

Some of the Persian contemporary poets and writers are Nima Youshij (نیما یوشیج), Ahmad Shamlou (احمد شاملو), Akhavan Sales (اخوان ثالث), Forough Farrokhzad (فروغ فرخزاد), Mohammad Ali Jamalzadeh (محمد علی جمالزاده), Ali Akbar Dehkhoda (علی اکبر دهخدا), Mohammad-Reza Shafiei Kadkani ((محمد رضا شفیعی کدکنی), Qeysar Aminpour (قیصر امین پور).

Below is a link to poems of some of the Persian Poets: