This dissertation examines ʿAṭṭâr’s didactic mas̱navis, especially his Conference of the Birds (Manṭeq al-ṭayr) and Book of Affliction (Moṣibat-nâma), from a rhetorical, audience-centered perspective. The vast majority of scholarship on ʿAṭṭâr has taken an exegetical approach to his works, seeking to uncover their underlying theological and ethical teachings. Although this brand of scholarship has increased our knowledge of sufi beliefs, it tends to abstract ʿAṭṭâr’s poems from the social situation of their reception and thus ignores the self-consciously perlocutionary and performative nature of his poetic project. The present study, by contrast, approaches his poems as socially situated sites of rhetorical interaction: it focuses on how they were consumed, the manner in which they call out an audience and a public, and the modes of relationality implicit in their forms of address. In so doing, we show that ʿAṭṭâr’s poems did not merely transit dogma to passive recipients, but spurred spiritual development in actively engaged reader-listeners through a “textualization” of contemporary preaching practices. According to this model of poetics, the textual encounter itself is to be approached as a performative act—a spiritual exercise—capable of moving the reader-listener further along the sufi path. Through these investigations, we challenge the notion that Persian homiletic poetry passively reflects religious thought, and instead show how it was imbricated in the construction and performance of mystically minded subjectivities.




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