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Talk by Professor Rahilya Geybullayeva, Head of Azerbaijani Literature Department, Baku Slavic University,

When May 24, 2019
from 11:00 AM to 01:00 PM
Where Room 235, Alison Richard Building
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Cambridge Central Asia Forum in collboration with Centre of Development Studies and GCRF COMPASS invites you to a talk by

Professor Rahilya Geybullayeva, Head of Azerbaijani Literature Department, Baku Slavic University


Modern Interpretations of Nizami or moulds without moulds   

Date: 24 May 2019
Time: 11-1pm
Venue: Room 235, Alison Richard Building 


Research on the topic of “modern interpretations of Nizami” has two aspects. The first, of course, concerns Nizami’s texts directly, and the pearls of Nizami’s thought are relevant today too. The second aspect concerns attempts to evaluate the Medieval past in the framework of both the terms and theories that were contemporary to the authors’ time and those used today, which do not pertain directly to the texts of Nizami (or any other author).  We and our contemporaries in the early 21st century are interpreting Nizami’s work (1141-1209) with an interval of almost a millennium. Of course, every era differs in terms of world view and its associated values. Moreover, in considering his work in terms of today’s requirements, disputes and research, new scholarly terms, ideas and related concepts emerge.

Based on modern research we can divide this second aspect of modern interpretations of Nizami into three subsections: national literature criteria, shared past and irredenta. Prompted by first the exaggerated problem of schizophrenia and Nizami in Dr. Elizabeth Bishop’s lecture Schizophrenia and Azerbaijani Literature (the American University in Cairo, Institute for Gender and Women’s Studies, Harvard CESS, 2003) and next by the approach synonymous/based on  the criterion of language in Edmund Herzig’s How Nizami Ganjavi became an Azerbaijani National Poet: Knowledge, Power and Persian Poetry in the 1930s Soviet Union and his lecture on what “national culture” Nizami belonged to (UCLA, 2017), we now return to the problem of national literature (and culture), including criteria. The term irredenta put on the agenda by the Soviet/Russian scholar Victor Shnirelman constitutes the third subsection on Nizami and gave the impetus for the conference on the problematics of A Modern Interpretation of Nizami. In turn, the shared past requires context in the dichotomy ofmetropolis/periphery. 

 A theory which was not prevalent in Nizami’s lifetime is that related to the concept of millət or nation, which arose some 200 years later, and the concepts and criteria that emerged based on the epithet millət – “national literature” and “national culture” (milli ədəbiyyat and milli mədəniyyət). It is in this respect that the present-day interpretation of Nizami’s finds its place in disputes (through the prism of the nation/state analogy) in thecontext of the political map of the modern world. Nizami is not the only artist to feature in debates on national literature and national culture, but he might well have become the most ardently disputed poet. Therefore, relevant criteria are required in order to divide the cultural heritage of the past among the peoples on today’s political map. These criteria must be traced not only through the prism of the dominant countries/empires and peoples – yesterday’s metropolises, but also in line with the principles of the post-colonial theory of peripheral countries/peoples. Given in western sources from the point of view of the former metropolises, these debates turn into scientific concepts.

We will also turn to historical semantics in comparing the present with the past in order to clarify terms and concepts arising in different eras and regions on the identification of cultural heritage.