Beholding Beauty

Saʿdi of Shiraz and the Aesthetics of Desire in Medieval Persian Poetry

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Beholding Beauty: Saʿdi of Shiraz and the Aesthetics of Desire in Medieval Persian Poetry explores the relationship between sexuality, politics, and spirituality in the lyrics of Saʿdi Shirazi (d. 1292 CE), one of the most revered masters of classical Persian literature. Relying on a variety of sources, including unstudied manuscripts, Domenico Ingenito presents the so-called “inimitable smoothness” of Saʿdi’s lyric style as a serene yet multifaceted window into the uncanny beauty of the world, the human body, and the realm of the unseen.

The book constitutes the first attempt to study Sa‘di’s lyric meditations on beauty in the context of the major artistic, scientific and intellectual trends of his time. By charting unexplored connections between Islamic philosophy and mysticism, obscene verses and courtly ideals of love, Ingenito approaches Sa‘di’s literary genius from the perspective of sacred homoeroticism and the psychology of performative lyricism in their historical context.

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Domenico Ingenito, Ph.D. (2012), University of Naples “L’Orientale,” is Assistant Professor of Persian Literature at the University of California, Los Angeles. He has previously taught at Oxford, and his research focuses on premodern Persian poetry, literary aesthetics, and geocriticism.
"Beholding Beauty is an exciting model of scholarship that dares to open itself to ambiguities, multiple possibilities, and nonlinear explorations of “the anthropological complexity of the human theater” (p. 136). Ingenito’s reconstruction of Saʿdī’s sacred homoeroticism, his exploration of vital affinities between literature and philosophy and theorization of lyric performativity—these interventions break ample new ground within Saʿdī scholarship and Persian studies, and will be generative for Islamic studies scholars, medievalists, and literary scholars and comparatists far and wide."
Jane Mikkelson in: Iranian Studies, Volume 55, Issue 2, April 2022.
Specialists, students, and aficionados of Persian and Arabic literature, Islamic studies, comparative literature, medieval philosophy, literary aesthetics, and historiography of premodern Iran and Central Asia.
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