Skip to main content


Visiting Speaker - Dr Asghar Seyed-Gohrab, Department of Persian, University of Leiden

"Love and Longing: Depictions of Layla in Medieval Persian Romances

In this lecture, I will talk about the romance of Layla and Majnun, which has become a source of inspiration for generations of poets since the seventh century, crossing the boundaries of languages, cultures and religions.

Event details

The romance lives on in pop songs, novels, poetry and the visual and material arts, showing people’s fascination with the mystery of love, poetry, faithfulness, and the madness that creates art.  The romance deals with various aspects of love, showing how love ennobles but can also degrade.  I will particularly focus on Layla, showing how different poets have depicted her character, her relationship with Majnun, with her imposed husband, and with her parents.  Questions such as the following will be discussed: is Layla a mere instrument for Majnun to achieve a spiritual union?  Why does she remain virgin?  Why do several poets characterise her as a martyr of love?  These and several other related questions will be discussed in my lecture.

Ali-Asghar Seyed-Gohrab is Associate Professor at Leiden University. His publications include Soefism: Een levende traditie, (Amsterdam: Prometheus / Bert Bakker, 2015, third print); The True Dream: Indictment of the Shiite Clerics of Isfahan, (London: Routledge 2017, together with S. McGlinn); Literature of the Early Twentieth Century: From the Constitutional Period to Reza Shah (ed., Volume XI of A History of Persian Literature, London / New York: I.B. Tauris 2015), Layli and Majnun: Love, Madness and Mystic Longing in Nizami’s Epic Romance, (Leiden / Boston: Brill, 2003), Mirror of Dew: The Poetry of Ālam-Tāj Zhāle Qā'em-Maqāmi, (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, Ilex Foundation Series 14, 2015), Metaphor and Imagery in Persian Poetry, (ed., Leiden/Boston: Brill, 2012), The Great Omar Khayyam: A Global Reception, (ed., Leiden: Leiden university Press, 2012), Courtly Riddles: Enigmatic Embellishments in Early Persian Poetry, (Leiden: LUP, 2008, 2010).   He is the founding general editor of the Iranian Studies Series at Leiden University Press, and the Modern Persian Poetry Series in Dutch.

A_Seyed_Gohrab___A4_Notice.pdf (515K)


IAIS Building/LT1