"Faridoddin Attar Questions for Alfred J. Drake's English 242: World Literature 400-1600 CE, Spring 2009 at Chapman University"



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Assigned: Faridoddin Attar. The Conference of the Birds (1528-41).

1. The narrator's prologue tells readers that in order to get the greatest benefit from The Conference of the Birds, they should "Forget what is and is not Islam" for the time being. How do you understand that phrase: what does "forgetting what is and is not Islam mean," and why is it necessary to experience the poem properly?

2. How does the narrator represent the "Christian girl" who inspires so much passion in the old man Sam'an? Is she simply evil, or is her case more complex than that? Explain.

3. How does Sam'an's "close companion" (line 425ff) succeed in helping his friend where others have failed? What exactly does he do, and what role does the Prophet (Muhammad) play in liberating Sam'an?

4. When the birds hear the tale of Sam'an, they are "all on fire / To quit the hindrance of the Self" (650-51). What does the term "Self" apparently mean in this context? How, that is, has Sam'an's story illustrated the pitfalls of Selfhood, and why does it excite in the birds an unquenchable desire to "gain the Simorgh"? (652)

Edition: Lawall, Sarah, ed. The Norton Anthology of World Literature. 2nd edition. Volumes 1ABC. New York: Norton, 2002. ISBN A = 0-393-97755-2, B = 0-393-97756-0, C = 0-393-97757-9.