Lecture by Dr. Nicoletta Fazio (Museum of Islamic Art, Doha),
“The Most Banal and Exalted: Love and its Discontents in Niẓāmī’s Laylī va Majnūn and the Roman de la Rose”


Date / Time Tue 19 Mar 2024 15:30–17:00 [JST] (Doors open at 15:00)
Venue In-person (East Hall [Toko] 302 Omiya Campus, Ryukoku University, 125-1 Daiku-cho, Shichijo-dori Omiya Higashi-iru, Shimogyo-ku, Kyoto, 600-8268, Japan)
+ Online meeting
* Pre-registration is required.Registration (deadline: 17 Mar 2024, 22:00 JST)
Admission Free (Open to the public)
Language English
Organized by NIHU Global Area Studies Program: The Global Mediterranean at ILCAA; An Empirical Research of the Representation of ‘Secularity’ in the Iconography of Islamic Art (Grant in Aid for Scientific Research C)
Contact gmed.ilcaa★gmail.com (Secretariat of the Global Mediterranean Project at ILCAA) Please change ★ to @.


Chair: Dr. Yui Kanda

15:30–15:35 Introduction
15:35–16:25 Lecture by Dr. Nicoletta Fazio (Museum of Islamic Art, Doha), The Most Banal and Exalted: Love and its Discontents in Niẓāmī’s Laylī va Majnūn and the Roman de la Rose
16:25–17:00 Q&A, Discussion


Based on the title of my forthcoming publication, this lecture aims to be a presentation about one of the most shared, dare I say universal, experience in human life: heartbreak. Love has been for centuries a theme much exploited by poets and artists. However, a great deal of words has been spent to celebrate love when it breaks, and pain emerges. The story of romantic lovesickness, a form of madness induced by love delusion, is long and dates to millennia. Still, certain topoi and images consolidated around specific times and places, centuries before the widespread popularity that the Romantic Movement enjoyed in the last decades of the 18th century CE.

My work investigates the enduring success of lovesickness by looking at its historical and intellectual articulations and diverse cultural interpretations in pre-modern societies. I have picked two distinctive poetic works that have brought lovesickness to the next level and set the pace for whatever else that followed: the masnavi (romantic epos) Laylī va Majnūn by the Persian poet Niẓāmī Ganjavī (ca1188-92 CE), and the allegorical dream poem Roman de la Rose composed, respectively, by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun (between 1230 and 1275-80 CE). The impact that these poems had on the history of their respective literary traditions cannot be stressed enough, as they emerged in a period when the discourse of and on love progressively took space in the literary arena.

Starting from the 12th century CE lyrical production (in Persian and French literary contexts) started making a sensible and progressive shift towards the erotic at the expenses of the heroic, so feeling over action, or what has been dubbed as “the heroism of sentiments”. This while merging erotic and spiritual vocabularies to give new articulations to the sentiment of love and its pangs. Niẓāmī’s Laylī va Majnūn and the Rose became iconic works of literature for their portrayal of excessive love, desire, obsession, madness, and yearning as the driving forces of the narrative.

Both poems have survived in numerous manuscript copies, a testimony to their major popularity. Several of these manuscripts have been illustrated leaving a blueprint in their respective literary and artistic traditions while showing the importance of vision and visuality in the construction of the discourse of love and lovesickness. By comparing these two historically disconnected yet thematically related literary discourses and artistic, pictorial traditions, in my work do not aim at establishing homologies. Rather, I look at divergent paths that lead to dissonances, to recognise historical emergences and socio-cultural peculiarities.