Love and Negativity in Medieval Persian Mysticism
An analysis of apophatic discourses of love in medieval Persian mystical texts, 800-1300 AD. The philosophical underpinnings and implications of Sufi thought are discussed in this course. The principal aim, however, is to shed light on the radical poetic force of the Persian texts. Topics to be addressed include the fundamentally oral, temporal nature of mystic speech; the relation of the speaking I to the unknown and unknowable Other; the discourse of love in which God and the beloved are one; the linguistic fragmentation of mystical discourse, straining against the edges of meaning; the possibility of salvaging mystical experience in language; and, finally, the question of apophasis as a theologically and politically subversive act. Primary readings include texts on and by Bayazid Bastami (800-874), Mansur al-Hallaj (857-922), Ayn al-Qozat al-Hamadani (1098-1131), Ruzbihan Baqli (1128-1209), Farid al-Din Attar (1145/46-1221), Shahab ad-Din al-Suhrawardi (1154-1191), and Jalal al-Din Rumi (d. 1273). These texts will be complemented by readings from Georges Bataille, Maurice Blanchot, Michel de Certeau, Jacques Derrida, Philippe Lacoue-Labarthe, Emmanuel Levinas, and Paul Ricoeur, among others. Taught in English.