Sabk-e Hendi and the Crisis of Authority in Eighteenth-Century Indo-Persian Poetics
Journal of Persianate Studies
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Dudney, A. (2016). Sabk-e Hendi and the Crisis of Authority in Eighteenth-Century Indo-Persian Poetics. Journal of Persianate Studies, 9 60-82. https://doi.org/10.1163/18747167-12341294
Modern debates over the merits of the so-called Indian Style (Sabk-e Hendi) in Persian literature, which was dominant from the late sixteenth to early nineteenth centuries, have been based on problematic assumptions about how literary style is tied to place. Scholars have often therefore interpreted the Persian literary criticism of the first half of the eighteenth century as a contest between Indians who praised Persian texts written in India and Iranians who asserted their privilege as native speakers to denigrate them. A more nuanced reading suggests that the debates mainly addressed stylistic temporality, namely the value of the writing styles of the “Ancients” (motaqaddemin) versus the innovative style of the “Moderns” (mota’akhkhrrin). In the thought of the Indian critic Serāj al-Din ‘Ali Khān Ārzu (d. 1756), there is clear evidence of a perceived rupture in literary culture that we can call a “crisis of authority.” Ārzu was concerned because Persian poetry had been judged according to “sanad” or precedent, but poets—both Indian and Iranian—were composing in a relatively new style (tāza-gu’i, literally “fresh speech”) that routinely went beyond the available precedents. All poets who know Persian well, he argued, including Indians, are allowed to innovate. While there was obvious rivalry between Persian-knowing Indians and the many Central Asians and Iranians settled in India, the contemporary terms of the debate have little in common with the later nationalism-tinged framing familiar to us.
Seraj al-Din ʿAli Khān, Ārzu, Khān-e Ārzu, Sabk-e Hendi, Indo-Persian, philology, regionalism
External DOI: https://doi.org/10.1163/18747167-12341294
This record's URL: https://www.repository.cam.ac.uk/handle/1810/255767