Of Door Knockers, Book Bindings, and Beehives: Material Culture in the Poetry of Sā’eb Tabrizi
Scholars normally study the work of Sā’eb Tabrizi (d. 1676) as representative of the transregional school of poetry known as the Fresh or Indian Style, which swept the Persianate world in the early modern period. Although this approach has produced detailed inventories of his typical figures of speech and thought, it tends to downplay the substance of his poetry and its engagement with the poet’s life experience and his environment. This lecture shows how Sā’eb uses three objects from material culture—door knockers, book bindings, and beehives—to create meaning from the everyday. Through a complex play of metaphor, these objects become signs (‘ebrat) of ethical and psychological values that make sense of human existence and ground proper conduct. Style is not simply a manipulation of language but a way of being and acting in society and the world.