Skip to main content


Monday Majlis: The Hoopoe on the Pulpit: Narrative Structure and Imagined Performance in ʿAṭṭār’s Manṭeq al-ṭayr

The Manṭeq al-ṭayr is often described as a spiritual journey in which the hoopoe leads a flock of birds through seven valleys towards the Simorgh. While the text does recount a spiritual journey, the quest actually makes up a very small percentage of the poem; the bulk of the work is devoted to the preparatory stories and homilies through which the hoopoe convinces the birds to set out and provides them with the knowledge they need to successfully complete it. In this sense, the poem is even more concerned with speech as an inducement to spiritual progress than it is with spiritual progress itself. In this talk, Austin O’Malley will examine the Manṭeq al-ṭayr as an exploration of speech’s perlocutionary efficacy and its limits, while showing how the frame- tale structure allows ʿAṭṭār to celebrate the power of his own homiletic discourse.

Event details


Austin O’Malley graduated from the University of Chicago in 2017 and is currently the Roshan Institute Assistant Professor of Persian and Iranian Studies at the University of Arizona. A scholar of pre-modern Persian verse with interests in performance, rhetoric, and reception, especially in Sufi contexts, his first book, The Poetics of Spiritual Instruction: Farid al-Din ʿAttar and Persian Sufi Didacticism (Edinburgh UP, 2023), examines ʿAṭṭār’s mas̱navīs to uncover an implicit poetics of didacticism embedded within Sufi homiletic verse. Austin has also published on the Abū Saʿīd hagiographical tradition, the romance Khosrow-nāma, and the quatrains of ‘Omar Khayyām. He is currently at work on a second monograph on forged and spurious works from the Timurid period, in which he shows how literary misattribution—intentional or otherwise—functioned as a generative mode of imagining the literary past.