Austin O'Malley

Austin O'Malley
Assistant Professor of Persian Literature
Joining NELC in Autumn 2024
Ph.D., University of Chicago, 2017
Teaching at UChicago since 2024

Austin O’Malley is a scholar of classical Persian literature with a special interest in performance, textuality, and reception, particularly in Sufi contexts.

His first book, The Poetics of Spiritual Instruction: Farid al-Din ʿAttar and Persian Sufi Didacticism (Edinburgh UP, 2023), uncovers an implicit poetics of didacticism embedded within Sufi homiletic verse. While treating didactic verse more broadly, it focuses on the narrative poetry of ʿAttar (d. c. 1221) in particular, whose innovative frame-tale structures allow the poet to reflexively imagine his own poems’ idealized reception. Through a close reading of ʿAttar’s works alongside other religious and literary texts, the monograph shows how didactic speech worked on its recipients on a bodily, psychological, and an ontological level, and how readers’ encounters with ʿAttar’s poems thereby functioned as symbolic performances of particular Sufi rituals and social relationships.

He has also published on hagiographical texts, a Perso-Hellenic verse romance, and the quatrains of ‘Omar Khayyam. He is currently at work on a second monograph on forged and spurious works from the Timurid period, in which he shows how literary misattribution—intentional or otherwise—functioned as a generative mode of imagining the literary past.          

Subject Area: Persian Language Program