84863 - Persian Language and Culture

Course Unit Page


This teaching activity contributes to the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals of the UN 2030 Agenda.

Quality education

Academic Year 2021/2022

Learning outcomes

At the end of the course the student has the basic knowledge of Persian grammar (alphabet and elementary morphology of the parts of the speech) and is able to support simple dialogues and to read passages of limited syntactic complexity. He also broadly knows the origins and development of the neo-Persian literature of the early centuries, both in relation to the Arab and ancient-Iranian heritage and to the historical and cultural context of Muslim Iran. In particular, he also becomes familiar with the main poetic genres (ghazal, roba'i, mathnavi, qaside) and deepens the relationship between poetry and Islamic mysticism or Sufism.

Course contents


Many think, erroneously, that it is a minor language, in fact today Persian is the official language of at least three countries (Iran, Afghanistan, Tajikistan) and is also spoken by large minorities in Pakistan, India, Uzbekistan, Turkey, and other places of former Soviet Union. Contrary to languages such as Arabic or Turkish, Persian is a language of great morphological simplicity, whose grammar may be learned even in a few days; in the Middle Ages it was the "lingua franca" of merchants and travelers on the "Silk Road" that led from the Mediterranean area to China through Central Asia. Everything important (scientific, religious, philosophical, literary texts etc.) that was written in Arabic has always been readily translated into the easiest Persian. So Persian is a sort of extraordinary "via brevis" to enter the main door into the Islamic world and its vast and varied culture that has lasted for 14 centuries and has been expressed not only in Arabic and Persian, but also in Turkish Urdu, Malay etc. .


Classical Persian literature takes place between the eleventh and fifteenth centuries, providing genres and forms (especially in poetry), themes and motifs that will largely influence not only the writers of Iranian origin but also those of the nearby literatures, in particular the Ottoman Turkish one and the Indian one (in Urdu language). Poets writing in Persian can be found even in the Ottoman era of Bosnia, from which came Sudi the major commentator of Hafez (or Hafis), the great Persian poet who - translated into German at the beginning of the 800- inspired the West-Oestlicher Divan of Goethe. In medieval Persian poetry we find themes such as the "journey of the soul" in the afterlife, which feeds a vast cycle of Islamic "divine comedies"; or that of love for a splendid "friend" with an ambiguous physiognomy, in which sometimes it is given to see a symbol of the absolute, of the divine. In short, we find themes that have an obvious European pendant in medieval Romance and Germanic literatures. Numerous are the mystic poets, who investigate the forms of spiritual initiation, as in the case of 'Attar or Rumi; but there are also poets expressing a worldly and nonconformist spirit, often veined by a corrosive skepticism, a radical philosophy of the "carpe diem", as occurs in the case of the quatrains of the famous and multi-translated 'Omar Khayyam. The study of this literature, in particular of its poetic expressions, can open up new horizons and together (partially) familiar, which make us understand how the idea of a West strictly bounded by its Greek-Roman-Christian matrix is perhaps in need of a deep review.


This course includes

-a linguistic part (mainly carried out in the form of Persian language exercises with a mother-tongue teacher, two-three weekly lessons).The Persian language exercises include a complete morphological-syntactic presentation and practical exercises with native speaking teacher

-a literary part carried out mainly with Prof. Saccone, three weekly lessons.  The Persian literature program is divided into two parts:

- the introductory part is intended to draw a profile of medieval Persian literature in relation to the poetry-religion link, with particular regard to: poetic genres; tipology of literary production above all in relation to mystical inspired poetry; the ghazal: forms and development of the genre, from the origins to the Sa'di's and Hafez's classicism; commented reading of original songs taken from various Persian poets of the classical period

- the monographic part includes the in-depth reading of one or two classical authors

A small additional monographic section in seminar form, possibly with the intervention of other specialists, will also be dedicated to contemporary Persian poetry (see bibliography)

As to Bibliography, see the Italian version

Teaching methods

lectures, seminars, conferences with experts and specialists

Assessment methods

At the end of the course there will be two separate tests, one written for the language and one oral for the literature, but the final grade will be unique.

Teaching tools

books, handouts, audio-visual media, websites and other useful materials

Office hours

See the website of Carlo Saccone