Literary biography is a difficult art to practice when the subject is a premodern Muslim poet. Even in the work of such explicitly autobiographical western writers as the twentieth-century Russian poet Anna Akhmatova the relationship between art and life can be tantalizingly ambiguous. In the case of most well-known classical Muslim poets, though, the connection between life and literature is usually indeterminable. To personalize the lyrics of the great fourteenth-century Persian poet Hafiz is as problematic as trying to glean autobiographical details from Shakespeare's sonnets. The reasons are essentially the same. Little is known of these poets' lives, and their poems exemplify lyric and panegyric genres that were not intended to be autobiographical or idiosyncratic. Neither Hafiz nor Shakespeare were Romantics, and they did not write introspective or self-revealing poems.

The text of this article is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.