A Most Controversial Book on Hafiz

This article offers a critical analysis of "Mysticism and "Rendi" in the Poetry of Hafiz: A Hermeneutical Interpretation." The author, Daryoosh Ashuri, refers to his book as "the most controversial book ever written on Hafiz." The article starts with a statement about the main theme of the book that reveals the original sources of the mystical philosophy as depicted in some of Hafiz's poems. Ashuri’s analysis falls within the traditional notions of "literary influence" that involves the study of the sources, and this is where the true value of his research lies.

However, Mr. Ashuri tries to present his study in terms of modern critical findings, using some of the concepts and methods of hermeneutics to give his analysis of Hafiz’s poetry a "modern" look. These concepts and methods require subscription to the findings of a literary revolution that began to take shape at the beginning of the twentieth century, eventually changing many of the traditional ideas and approaches concerning literature. Unfortunately, Mr. Ashuri’s study fails to ascribe to this approach. Accordingly, his approach, once seen in a wider perspective, discloses tendencies that contradict modern literary theory.

An example of this is Mr. Ashuri’s attempt to exclude from his study the literary aspect of the text. This occurs in a period in which focus on the "literariness" of the text is considered the single most important key to the understanding of a literary work.

A second example is Mr. Ashuri’s treatment of literary form. Before modern literary theory, form was seen as an "external" factor that was employed to give a pre-determined content a "beautiful" cover. As such, it had no structural role in determining meaning and could, therefore, be ignored or eliminated from literary analyses. Mr. Ashuri’s handling Hafiz's Divan as a single text, despite the fact that it contains about five hundred poems each with a unique literary form, shows his tendency to fall back upon the traditional definition of form and treat it as a superficial ornament that does not contribute to a fundamental understanding of the work. This runs against the conclusions reached by modern literary criticism including Russian Formalism that considers content at the service of form.

Reza Ghannadan
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