Sunil Sharma is a professor of Persianate and comparative literature at Boston University. His areas of expertise are Persian and South Asian literatures, and his research interests include poetry and court cultures, the history of the book, and travel writing. His latest book, Mughal Arcadia: Persian Poetry in an Indian Court (Harvard University Press, 2017), is a study of early modern Persianate literature. He is a participant in a multi-year project entitled “Veiled Voyagers: Muslim Women Travelers from Asia and the Middle East,” with Siobhan Lambert-Hurley (Sheffield University) and Daniel Majchrowicz (Northwestern University). Veiled Voyagers will recover, translate, and analyze Muslim women’s travel writing from a range of languages in order to draw out the gendered relationships between travel and Muslim identities, nationalism, and the shaping of global power. He is the current president of The Association for the Study of Persianate Societies.
Almost a dozen anthologies featuring female Persian (and Turkish and Urdu) poets appeared in the nineteenth and early twentieth century in Iran and North India. In this paper, I will explore the larger social and literary contexts that gave rise to this literary phenomenon whose compilers and, to a great extent, readers were men. These works elicit many questions about the intended readership, the sources used, print technology, and more centrally, the impulse to create competing canons of Persian(ate) poetry featuring female poets from the earliest times to the present.