Exile is Arrival: Nineteenth Century Kurdish Poetry
Date: 2 September 2019
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
PhD in Kurdish Studies
Nineteenth century Kurdistan witnessed marked individuality and creativity among Kurdish poets. This dissertation asks what conditions contributed to this burst of originality. What world did these poets live in and how did they use verse to transform that world? Employing close reading and the historical reading it developed in dissent ...
Nineteenth century Kurdistan witnessed marked individuality and creativity among Kurdish poets. This dissertation asks what conditions contributed to this burst of originality. What world did these poets live in and how did they use verse to transform that world? Employing close reading and the historical reading it developed in dissent to, this dissertation examines poets who, initially enabled by the patronage of the Baban princes, crafted Sorani as a literary dialect of Kurdish. The pressure on these poets increased steadily over the century. Sweeping changes unbalanced the Ottoman and Qajar empires. Kurds, living in the borderlands, lived on the front lines of that shifting balance. By mid-century, the empires had dismantled the Kurdish principalities, Baban and Ardalan, who themselves vacillated between rivalry and alliance. In the political chaos that followed the fall of these princely houses, Sufism and nationalist sentiment thrived. Nineteenth century Kurdish poets articulated the heartbreak of this upheaval and more. They formed their exile into artistic arrival. They reinvigorated form and reimagined content. Courtly modes of praising and cursing became intimate and particular: poets became their own princes. Different from one another as they were, they took each other as literary heroes, they maintained extended poetic and curse correspondences. Over the course of the century, poets changed the discourse of poetry. Homoeroticism entered Kurdish verse. Poetry became the space Kurds had to explore, criticize, and celebrate Kurdishness. Poets experimented with ideas such as the scientific method, animal voices, and gender equality. These poems contain a century of vibrant Kurdish thought. As poetry was, until the twentieth century, the primary genre of Kurdish letters, these poems represent an indespensable source for researchers interested in the era’s political, religious, and social concerns. More, this dissertation constitutes the first attempt, in English or Kurdish, to see these poems as emerging from a coherent community—the community the poets themselves built. The study of these poems in conversation with one another enables us to speak more intricately than the broad, traditionally-accepted Kurdish literary term “classical” allows and to compare generations of Kurdish poets to their global contemporaries.
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