American Lectures in the History of Religions


Location: Hesburgh Center for International Studies Auditorium


Fatemeh Keshavarz

Roshan Chair of Persian Studies and Director of the Roshan Institute for Persian Studies at the University of Maryland

Monday, October 24

4 p.m., Hesburgh Center for International Studies

Reception to follow in the Great Hall.

"Speaking Truth to Power: Candid Conversations with the Divine"

Within Islamic poetic traditions, the conversations addressed to God have at times been less than smooth agreements. In classical Persian literature, the daring/blasphemous assertions of Omar Khayyam (d. 1131) are well-known. This presentation suggests that candid conversations with the Divine were not limited to skeptics. Nor did they neatly fit into the “rebellion versus obedience” binary. Believing mystics often used the dynamics of ambivalence, doubt, inquiry and sarcasm to open up a fresh poetic arena in which to redefine popular perceptions of the sacred presence. In the process, they demanded divine justice – and by extension the attention of the political and religious authorities – to marginalized issues and classes. 

Free and open to the public.

Tuesday, October 25

4 p.m., Hesburgh Center for International Studies

"Echoes in the Cosmic Chamber: Love’s Voice in the Poems of Hafez"

Known as the “tongue of the unseen,” Hafez of Shiraz (d. 1390) is to this day popularly believed to be speaking with a knowledge nourished by the divine and inaccessible to ordinary mortals. Scholars such as Annemarie Schimmel have compared his lyrics to perfectly polished diamonds. This presentation lays out the geography – and the poetic cosmology - of the seamlessly connected spaces within which our poet moved.  It demonstrates that in their poetic and multilayered constructions of cosmic chambers and dilapidated wine shops, the ghazals of Hafez put the voice of the Divine and that of the ordinary fellow in an elegant and meaningful conversation with far reaching echoes. Over the centuries, these conversations have excited as much literary/religious debate as they have fired up the imagination of a vast popular readership.

Free and open to the public.

American Academy of Religion
Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies