Date of Award

Summer 8-15-2016

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

Comparative Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



"The Poetics of the Sufi Carnival: The ‘Rogue Lyrics’ (Qalandariyât) of Sanâ’i, ‘Attâr, and ‘Erâqi" is the first detailed study of the poetics and cultural politics of the “rogue lyrics” (qalandariyât) of medieval Persian Sufi literature. Countering approaches that either reduce this carnivalesque poetry to an abstract symbolist poetics or sublimated aesthetic expression of Sufi antinomianism, the present study analyzes (1) the historical development of this countergenre, (2) the myriad ways in which its heterotopic poetics creates—indeed, performs—meaning, and (3) the cultural politics of its (typically) same-sex beloved.

Chapter one and two position the qalandariyât within the broader historical development of the Persian genre system. These chapters combine close readings of a wide variety of early poetry, manuscripts, and poetic treatises with a computational form of textual analysis called topic modeling to argue that not only was qalandari poetry considered a coherent thematic genre, but it functioned as a heterotopic countergenre to religious-homiletic (zohdiyât/mow’ezeh) and royal panegyric (madhiyât) poetry in the early Persian poetic system. Chapter three then examines the poetics of the qalandariyât, focusing in particular on the ways in which the force dynamics embedded in its “shocking” and transgressive imagery both performs and inculcates the radical spiritual (inter-)subjectivity necessary for the true Sufi lover. Finally, chapter four problematizes the tendency in modern scholarship on Sufi love theory to heteronormativize or “straighten” expressions of embodied same-sex desire through a close reading of ‘Erâqi’s conversion to the qalandari antinomian mode of piety in his anonymous hagiography.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Fatemeh Keshavarz, Lynne Tatlock

Committee Members

Mark D. Jordan, Ahmet T. Karamustafa, Paul Losensky, Jessica Rosenfeld


Permanent URL: https://doi.org/doi:10.7936/K7H1309D