A History of Early Literary Riddles: the Emergence of Persian Riddle Poetry and its Impact on Poetic Diction
09 / 2002 - 08 / 2006
Nederlandse Organisatie voor Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (NWO)
This project aims at writing a history of Persian riddles as a literary genre as well as examining the development of poetic diction from a plain to a highly metaphoric and enigmatic style. In the scanty material that is available, this development has been attributed to poets of a certain period without searching for the reasons why this stylistic change took place in the poetry. The question to be addressed is whether the change in Persian poetic diction starting in the twelfth century can be traced back to the emergence of the literary riddle. There is a lacuna in the field of medieval studies since no thorough scholarly investigation has hitherto been conducted on the Persian riddle poetry. In particular, the possible relation between riddles and metaphors has never before been addressed. This project will study the period of the emergence of the riddle in Persian poetry in the tenth century until the end of the fifteenth century. Highly complex metaphors became popular from the twelfth century onwards. The method will be to first define riddles and poetic metaphors in the context of classical Persian and Arabic literary theories, their stylistic features and their interrelation with descriptive poetry (vasf). Then the relation between metaphors and riddles in Persian poetry will be examined in order to come to an integrated account of the development of riddles and metaphors in classical Persian poetry. Modern literary theory and theories on metaphor (Bal:1997; Lakoff & Johnson:1980; Ortony: revis.repr.1994) will be used as incidental reference. In short, through the study of the history of Persian literary riddles, this research aims to investigate how the art of riddling influenced Persian poetic diction, making the language more abstract, metaphoric and puzzling.